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IMVH Task Force Forges On

Ninety five days after issuing their final report on the fate of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, the Southeast Health Planning Task Force was still awaiting a response from Inova Health System Board of Trustees. And there was no indication it would be issued any time soon.

Accentuating that fact was the absence of Task Force Co-chair Frederick W. Sachs, Jr., a member of the IHS Board of Trustees, who had been appointed to that position following the resignation of the Task Force's original chair Warren Cikins. Chairing the June 3 meeting was the other co-chair Anne Andrews, who had been selected by her fellow Task Force members.

Meeting at the South County Government Center, the Task Force heard reports on various actions being undertaken at IMVH, the chances of a competing health service opening a facility in Fairfax County, and financial projections pertaining to IMVH. But there was no direct answer to whether or not IMVH will remain a full service medical facility.

When pressed by Task Force member Herbert E. Harris II concerning a response to the report by the IHS Board, H. Patrick Walters, IHS senior vice president said, "No recommendation has been made to the Board. What the Board is looking at is the entire service and needs across Northern Virginia. It all has to fit into the Capital Plan, which will be dealt with in the fall."

This was verified by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland who sits on IHS's Operating Board. When asked by Task Force Chair Anne Andrews for his report he replied, "I have nothing to report because the Board I'm on has done nothing. There is no recommendation on the table."

Hyland did admit, "The Task Force Report was distributed as a matter of information but not as an agenda item at our last meeting. At this point it has not been brought up for discussion.

And as far as I know, the future of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital has not been on the IHS Board agenda either."

Walters went on to assure Task Force members, "We are very cognizant of all the needs of the people in Northern Virginia for health services over the next 30 years. This is a very complex set of circumstances we are looking at."

ONE OF THE primary concerns discussed by the Task Force, in addition to their report not receiving attention from the IHS Board, was the impact of a new health care provider entering the Northern Virginia market. As always that concern has concentrated on HCA, a for-profit medical services corporation with facilities in the region. IHS is constituted as a non-profit corporation.

HCA has made overtures to establish health care facilities in both the Springfield and Loudoun County areas. Task Force member George Barker pointed out that, HCA has three options: build something south of Dulles; build a larger facility, approximately 164 beds, in a different site; or walk away altogether.

"There are a lot of potential implications to HCA trying to build in this area. If anything, the Springfield area is more attractive as a site than it was in the late 1990's," Barker said.

Barker explained that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors had advised HCA that they did not want a facility in the Broadlands area but had no objection to a new facility in the Dulles South area.

"If they [HCA] thought they had troubles before, they'd have a lot more now if they tried to bring a 164 bed facility into the Springfield area," Hyland noted.

Following Barker's presentation, Susan Herbert, administrator, IMVH, outlined a variety of improvements that have been instituted at IMVH over the last year. They included:

*A $923,000 investment to expand the Wound Center. "This will increase its effectiveness by 125 percent," she emphasized.

*A doubling of the treatment area space increasing it to nine areas. "After March we stepped back to look at what the hospital really needs. We have done an in-depth analysis of diagnostics and imaging. We will be proposing increases in diagnostic procedures," Herbert told the Task Force.

HERBERT OUTLINED a number of changes and improvements in both medical and administrative procedures that have been instituted to make the hospital more viable. However, she admitted, "I'm not sure that at the end of the day all these things will affect our bottom line."

Herbert noted, "We are still operating in the red. We are probably looking at a $6.5 million loss this year even though we continue to focus on cost management and control."

Hyland added, "The good news is the projected losses have not materialized and the new Emergency Room is like night and day compared to before."

One of the major concerns throughout the two years has been the closure of Woodlawn Road and its impact on patient access to IMVH. Hyland was asked about the status of a replacement road — where and when?

"Thirty days ago we had a meeting in Senator [John] Warner's office and it was settled that the replacement road for Woodlawn Road would be Old Mill Road. The only question now is the alignment and who's going to pay for it," Hyland said.

We suggested they [federal government] pay 100 percent of the cost since they were the one's who appropriated a state road. It is estimated the cost will be between $15 and $18 million with an estimated time for completion of four to five years," Hyland explained.

There were also discussions pertaining to increasing the viability of IMVH's Joint Replacement expertise and interaction with Bethesda Naval Hospital and Fort Belvoir. In both cases talks are continuing but no definitive action has taken place.

As stated at an early Task Force meeting, "The goal of this task force is to sustain Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, to enhance existing services and to add such other services that will ensure it financial viability and serve the community health care needs."

To that end, they established September 2, as their next meeting date.