Mount Vernon and Lee district supervisors Gerald W. Hyland and Dana Kauffman may have cracked the stoicism of Inova Health System toward the fate of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.
As a result of an Aug. 14 meeting in Kauffman's office between the two supervisors and Inova officials, Hyland and Kauffman were given assurances that actions will be taken by Inova Health System to increase services at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. This would go a long way in helping to save the hospital, according to Hyland.
The opening paragraph of a joint press release from the two supervisors noted they met with Inova officials "for a briefing on measures being taken by Inova to help stabilize the financial situation at Mount Vernon Hospital and to keep it from closing its doors or reducing its services."
The two supervisors stated they "are delighted to report to our constituents that Inova officials have heard their concerns and now better understand the critical importance citizens place on Inova Mount Vernon Hospital."
Both Hyland and Kauffman said they left the meeting with the distinct impression Inova had made a "commitment to maintaining Mount Vernon Hospital as the best hospital it can be for our community." But as Hyland was quick to point out, "I have no illusions that this battle is over."
That conclusion was buttressed by Beth Visioli, media relations for Inova Health System, who verified, "No decision has been made about the hospital. We intend to stick to our end-of-the-year time line" for any final decisions."
The joint press release cited several actions Inova Health System has agreed to as a result of that meeting that they feel would not only maintain the hospital's viability but would actually upgrade its services. Among those actions would be the renovations to be made to the emergency room; in radiology a PET scanner was added Aug. 8; a second CT scanner and a third nuclear medicine camera will be added; an ultrasound upgrade will be implemented to increase capacity; in the third quarter of 2003, bariatric surgery will be offered; the Wound Center will be upgraded; donated funds for the Low Vision Center will be shifted from Inova Fairfax Hospital to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital (IMVH); a new general surgeon will be added to the hospital staff by Jan. 1, 2004; and systematic identification of possible rehab patients in other hospitals will be directed to Mount Vernon Hospital.
NONE OF THESE items was viewed by Inova Health System (IHS) as anything new, according to Visioli. "This is all part of our short-term strategy," she insisted. "We had always intended to do these things."
She also maintained that they had been spelled out previously by IMVH administrator, Susan Herbert, at a meeting of the Southeastern Healthcare Task Force. Hyland disputed this assertion, recalling, "I asked Knox Singleton [IHS CEO and president] at the very first meeting of the task force to give some examples of improved services, and he did not do it."
Kauffman noted in the release, "It is estimated that implementing these proposed actions could result in a $3 million to $5 million improvement in Inova Mount Vernon Hospital's bottom line." One of the primary elements of the task force's mission is how to reverse a recent negative trend in the hospital's financial status.
In addition to the seven actions spelled out, there were also discussions at the meeting concerning the proposal by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8th) to having IMVH serve as the joint-replacement center for military patients now using Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Moran has also suggested that veterans and their families using the services at DeWitt Hospital at Fort Belvoir be permitted to receive services at IMVH.
"We are very pleased that Inova has been meeting with Congressmen Davis and Moran and representatives of the Army to establish a relationship," Kauffman said.
MECHANICS OF HOW joint venture opportunities and partnerships with military hospitals and doctors would work with Inova are currently being explored. As an example of a possible joint venture, the supervisors cited IMVH providing "inpatient care and the addition of obstetrics" as well as granting "Army physicians’ privileges" at IMVH.
"This could result in a first-class medical, surgical and obstetrics facility available to all the residents of southeastern Fairfax County and military families across the regions," according to Hyland and Kauffman.
Moran has secured $1 million in the U.S. House budget to fund the start-up of a relationship between IMVH and the military facilities. Depending on the program's success and potential expansion, Moran has said this could climb to $10 million per year. It would be subject to annual Congressional budgetary analysis.
Other positive actions according to Hyland were the announcement that Susan Herbert, IMVH administrator, "has invited employees to a town meeting this week to discuss their thoughts, issues and concerns. On Aug. 25, Knox Singleton will meet in the hospital cafeteria to discuss issues and encourage further input from employees and staff.
Hyland noted, "I'm glad to see that Inova has adopted the practice we have here in the Mount Vernon-Lee communities, which is the use of town meetings, a most effective vehicle to receive input from our constituencies."
Assessing the Aug. 14, meeting, Hyland said, "I'm not saying we're home free. There's a lot of things that still need to be done. But it’s the first positive indication they [Inova Health System] are going to do a lot of things the doctors have suggested, and it does show some progress in the right direction.
"For the first time they [IHS] have communicated with us and our constituents. These actions indicate Inova's commitment to maintaining Mount Vernon Hospital as the best hospital it can be for our community."
Hyland added, "We [he and Kauffman] want to acknowledge these very positive steps being taken by Inova and are delighted to report to our constituents that Inova officials have heard their concerns and now better understand the critical importance citizens place on Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.
"Both Supervisor Kauffman and I see this as a great start in improving and adding services to our hospital. We look forward to Inova's implementing the additional services urged by Mount Vernon physicians in order to enhance the economic viability of Mount Vernon Hospital."