Hospital Fights Back

Hospital Fights Back

Loudoun Hospital Center submits plan to thwart competition.

Loudoun Hospital Center has a new plan to fight the proposed construction of a competing hospital only five miles away.

It has submitted an amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan, seeking a decision that the county shall have three hospitals and five Community Health Care Centers to serve the residents' medical needs.

The county's Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put the process of amending the Comprehensive Plan on the fast track, but did not support or oppose the Loudoun Hospital Center's specific proposal.

Under the Center's amendment, the hospitals would be located in Lansdowne, Leesburg and the Dulles South area near Washington Dulles International Airport. Loudoun Hospital Center owns the existing hospitals in Lansdowne and Leesburg.

In addition to the current community health care center in Sterling, centers would be located in the western towns of Lovettsville, Purcellville/Round Hill and Middleburg. The amendment also calls for a special services medical facility at the airport.

HCA, based in Nashville, received state permission to build a 164-bed hospital in Broadlands last month. Jeff Cowart, spokesman for the Loudoun Hospital Center, said the Hospital Center could have appealed the decision or opposed zoning for the Broadlands neighborhood.

"This is a much bigger idea," he said. "Most counties, such as Arlington and Fairfax, have sections on hospital and health care in their comprehensive plans. Whether HCA is coming in or not, there has to be a plan for Loudoun County."

Supervisors agreed. Vice-Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) said amending the Comprehensive Plan is critical and might be the most important decision the board will make. "There is a sense of urgency," he added. "but I do not want the hospital to define the plan."

The board voted 8-1 to consider the Loudoun Hospital proposal while drafting an amendment of its own and to make scheduling of a public hearing on the issue a priority.

Mark C. Looney, land use attorney for the Broadlands Regional Medical Center, said if the supervisors intend to restrict HCA's ability to build a hospital in Broadlands under their amendment, then they will be sending a terrible signal about economic development in the county. "We stand to pay the county $4 million in local taxes, which would fund the equivalent of 80 teachers' salaries," he said. "I don't have a problem amending the plan as long as they include the Broadlands site in the plan."

The Hospital Center's proposal would ensure services are provided in the major population centers and towns that do not currently have convenient access to them, the amendment states. "As the county's population has grown at its unprecedented rate over the past decade, it is no longer acceptable for residents to seek inpatient care, primary care, diagnostic, ambulatory and outpatient services far distant from where they live or work."

Cowart said the Hospital Center believes Broadlands is the wrong site for a second hospital. "Building a duplicate hospital five miles from an existing hospital doesn't make sense from an economic standpoint or from a geographic distribution of healthcare for Loudoun," he said.

The amendment does not preclude HCA or any other business from building the third hospital near the airport.

Loudoun Hospital Center has given the old hospital on Cornwall Street in Leesburg a new name: "Western Loudoun Medical Center."