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Hospital Hearing Set

Both cases involving Hospital Corporation of America's (HCA) proposed Broadlands Regional Medical Center will be moving forward in the coming months.

The proposed hospital is a 164-bed facility located along the west side of Belmont Ridge Road and south of the Dulles Greenway in Ashburn. The location is less than five miles from the existing Inova Loudoun Hospital in Lansdowne, which has been the cause of an ongoing legal battle between Inova and HCA.

On May 24, Virginia Health Commissioner Robert Stroube granted HCA a one-year extension of its Certificate of Public Need (COPN) approval, something Hancock said is "routine."

The proposed site of a new hospital must be evalutated and approved by the health commissioner before the applicant can proceed.

"Extensions are typically granted," Broadlands Regional Medical Center's Chief Executive Officer Bryan Dearing said, "as long as the applicant is trying to make some progress with their project. Even though it looks like all we are doing is legal stuff, we are trying to bring this hospital to the county."

Since HCA received its original site approval from Stroube in 2004, the matter has come before the courts three times. In Inova's most recent appeal of the site approval, Richmond Circuit Court Judge T.J. Markow ruled in favor of HCA on April 27.

Inova filed a notice of an appeal of Markow's decision May 22, HCA attorney Tom Hancock said, adding that Inova could take the appeal as far as the Virginia Supreme Court.

IN ADDITION TO the ongoing legal actions with the site approval, Hospital Corporation of America is also challenging the denial of its special-exception application by the Board of Supervisors.

The company will have its first chance to argue the case against the county June 22, when a Circuit Court judge will hear the county's motion to dismiss HCA's lawsuit.

"We filed suit because we met the criteria for a special exception," Descutner said. "There was no real reason to deny our application."

Last August, the board voted against HCA's request for a special exception to build the hospital citing concerns about traffic and cohabitation with surrounding neighborhoods.

However, HCA said they do not believe either issue is reasonable cause for denial.

"Hospitals and houses are adjacent to each other all over the country," HCA spokesperson Megan Descutner said. "We are committed to being friends and community partners with those around us."

Dearing said that HCA has been meeting with neighbors since they first began planning for the medical center in 2002 and has been trying to address everyone's concerns.

"We have added a greater buffer between us and the houses," he said. "We offered to take out the helipad over [people's] concerns over helicopter noise."

In addition, Descutner said that HCA has designated 31 percent of the site as open space and left the length of two football field between the hospital and the first residential houses.

Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles), who would be the supervisor for the hospital, said he believes that Broadlands is not the right place for the county's second hospital.

"When this first started I sat down with the two presidents [of Inova and HCA] and told them that any hospital in Dulles South would be a wonderful thing," he said. "But a hospital in the middle of a neighborhood doesn't serve the people, it only serves to exacerbate the problem of having two hospitals too close together."

Snow said he believes that a hospital in Dulles South would better serve the citizens of the county.

"Moving it south to where it needs to be serves the people, not just of Dulles, but of Middleburg, much better. I bet even people from Chantilly would use the facility," he said. "That has been my position all along."

If the Circuit Court denies the county's motion for dismal, Hancock said HCA would probably go to trial sometime in the beginning of 2007.

LOCATION CONTINUES to be the main issue between Inova and HCA.

While five miles may not seem like a large distance between the county's first and second hospital, HCA maintains that its hospital will only help the county and Inova.

"If we are one of the most rapidly growing areas, we just want to build our hospital to meet the existing need," Descutner said.

"Loudoun County is unique," Hancock said. "The population is growing with people moving in, it is aging and it has one of the highest birth rates. All the factors are coming together to indicate that there is a need here."

Both Hancock and Descutner cite hospital pairings throughout the region and the state that operate at similar distances and are both successful as evidence that Broadlands Regional Medical Center would not adversely affect Inova Loudoun Hospital.

"Reston Hospital and Fair Oaks are only seven miles apart and they are both thriving," Descutner said. "They are an example of an Inova and an HCA hospital existing together."

Inova filed its notice of appeal several weeks ago, which is the first step in the appeals process.

"As I understand it there is a procedure set by the Court of Appeals of Virginia and we have taken the first step in filing notice." Tony Raker, director of community relations for Inova Loudoun Hospital, said. "The court will acknowledge our notice and provide filing instructions."

Hancock said part of the beauty of HCA's chosen site is the fact that it pushes up against both Belmont Ridge Road and the Dulles Greenway.

"The major ambulance traffic will be coming down from the Greenway and down Belmont Ridge, not through the neighborhoods," he said.

"We just keep going through these hearings and winning decisions because we are basing it on facts, not emotion," Descutner said. "We want to build this so the 50 percent of people who leave the community for health care won't have to."

Whatever happens with Inova's appeal, Hancock said the future of Broadlands Regional Medical Center lies with the county land-use lawsuit.

"The COPN appeal does not preclude construction of the hospital," he said. "If the zoning is granted we could begin construction right away."

Although legal issues have pushed HCA off of its original timeline, Descutner said they are still committed to bringing a hospital to Broadlands.

"Every day it is two and half to three years from today that we could open," she said.