Adventist Undeterred by Holy Cross Plan

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Officials at Adventist HealthCare announced yesterday that they will continue with plans to build a hospital in Clarksburg, despite a rival's proposal to build a hospital a few miles away from their site.

The decision sets up a battle between two nonprofit health-care giants in Montgomery County. It is unlikely that two hospitals would be built so close together, and the winner will be decided by state officials.

Adventist HealthCare has long planned to build a 100-bed hospital in Clarksburg to complement two facilities it operates in the area, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville and Shady Grove Adventist Emergency Center in Germantown. But in August, Silver Spring-based Holy Cross Hospital surprised many in the community when it announced an agreement with Montgomery College to build a 93-bed hospital that would open in 2012 on the college's Germantown campus.

In October, Holy Cross officials filed building plans with the Maryland Health Care Commission, the agency that approves hospital construction in the state. A hearing on Holy Cross's plan has not been scheduled.

Adventist officials said they anticipate filing a formal application with the state for a certificate of need in 2009.

"There was never any question whether we were going to go forward with Clarksburg,'' said William G. Robertson, president and chief executive of Adventist HealthCare, which also runs Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. "We've been working on this for six years, and we thought it was time to give people a little more in-depth glimpse of the comprehensive medical campus.''

Robertson said Adventist's plan is better than the one offered by Holy Cross, the county's largest hospital. The Clarksburg hospital would be part of a medical complex that would include a medical office building and a 150-bed skilled-nursing facility. The 142-acre site would provide ample space for expansion, he added. Adventist HealthCare bought the property in 2001 but has taken several years to move through the planning process.

Holy Cross's plan calls for a 93-bed, $267 million hospital to be built on 23 acres. The proposed hospital would anchor the college's north county campus. Holy Cross officials said the proximity to the community college would yield on-the-job training opportunities for students. Officials also plan to open a clinic for obstetrics and gynecology in Germantown and to expand the hospital's Silver Spring campus by building a seven-story, $209 million tower for patients.

"The partnership with Montgomery College presents extraordinary opportunities to help educate and develop the health-care workforce of current and future generations,'' said Kevin J. Sexton, president and chief executive of Holy Cross.

By law, the state commission must evaluate projects based on six criteria, including cost-effectiveness, viability and impact on other area health-care facilities. Paul Parker, who heads the review process for the commission, said the projects will be evaluated on individual merits.

Approval of one project does not necessarily mean that the other will be turned down. But local officials say that because the hospitals would be so close to each other, it is unlikely both will be approved.

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