Wellness Center, Emergency Care Planned for Takoma Park

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Officials at Adventist HealthCare announced plans yesterday to turn the hospital's Takoma Park campus into a health center with emergency and primary care and community amenities such as a gymnasium and pool once the current hospital moves north to the Calverton-White Oak area of Montgomery County.

The 13-acre site would become a "village of health and well being," Adventist President William G. Robertson said, combining traditional medical services with a wellness center that in addition to the pool and gym would include a rock-climbing wall.

In addition, the campus could offer assisted living facilities for senior citizens and expanded outpatient rehabilitation services, he said. Officials also want to take advantage of the hospital's current proximity to Columbia Union College to create classroom space and find other ways the hospital can more closely partner with its counterparts in higher education, they said.

The announcement came in response to residents' concerns that the hospital's move would leave the area without access to health care. Many walk or depend on public transportation to get to the current location. Robertson, who runs the hospital's parent company, said the proposal for the site came after an extensive study that included interviews with more than 200 members of the Takoma Park community.

"We've targeted what the community has told us it needs," Robertson told the more than 50 community members and elected officials who gathered at the hospital's conference center for yesterday's announcement.

Robertson did not have a cost estimate for the proposal, which could require public and private dollars to build. Various elements also would require approval from state and county officials before the plan could move forward. Robertson said elements of the wellness center could open as early as 2011.

Jere D. Stocks, president of Washington Adventist Hospital, said plans for the current site combined with the hospital's anticipated move in 2013, "will strengthen the health-care safety net for everyone."

Robertson said the reinvention of the Takoma Park site could serve as a model for other hospitals undergoing similar changes. After several years of study, Adventist officials announced in 2005 that it would relocate the 294-bed hospital's operations rather than expand its campus in Takoma Park. In 2007, it announced it had acquired a 48-acre parcel at Plum Orchard Drive and Cherry Hill Road.

Construction on the new hospital campus is scheduled to begin in 2010 with an anticipated opening of 2013. A few weeks ago, Adventist officials received another in a series of approvals for the move. In November, the plan for the new hospital campus, which is about six miles north of the current site, will go before the county Planning Board.

Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams said that when Adventist first announced its intention to move, community members' main concern was that they would lose access to health-care services such as emergency room care and dialysis. But after listening to Adventist officials outline their vision during yesterday's lunchtime gathering, he said he felt confident the community's needs would be served.

"What they are keeping here are the pieces that the community thinks are important," he said. "I like the vision. Now we have to work out the particulars and the funding."

Those seeking more information about Adventist's plans can visit http://www.expandedhealthaccess.com.

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