By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 11, 2010; PW01
More health-care options in the Prince William area could be on the horizon as two companies vie for state approval to build a hospital in the county's western end.
Sentara Healthcare and the Prince William Health System both filed applications in January with Virginia health officials for a certificate of public need to build hospitals in the Gainesville-Haymarket area, which officials from both companies said is underserved.
"I think we've hit that point where we need some more hospital and medical services," said Prince William County Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville). "And it is not just about the hospital but the doctors and the clinics that will follow."
On Monday, the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia will hold a public hearing on both proposals. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Heritage Hunt Golf & Country Club, 6901 Arthur Hills Dr., Gainesville. Because the two proposed sites are within five miles of each other, they will be looked at competitively, though it is possible for both, neither or just one to be approved, said Erik Bodin, head of the certificate of public need division at the Virginia Department of Health.
Norfolk-based Sentara Healthcare, the company Potomac Hospital merged with last year, plans to build a 60-bed hospital on Wellington Road, just south of Interstate 66. The proposed hospital includes an emergency department, four operating rooms, 42 medical-surgical beds, 6 intensive-care beds and 12 beds in a maternity ward, Sentara officials said. Advanced imaging services would also be available, and family practice and specialty physicians would be across the 45-acre campus.
The $121 million project, which would be completed by summer 2014, would create about 350 jobs, said Ken Krakaur, senior vice president of Sentara Healthcare. How much tax revenue it would generate for the county is unclear, he said.
"Sentara was just ranked the Number 1 integrated health-care system in the country," Krakaur said. "I think with our track record on quality, patient safety and innovation, we'll be a real good choice for that community."
The Prince William Health System, which merged with Novant Health last year, plans to build an 80-bed hospital next to the Heathcote Health Center it operates near Route 15 and Interstate 66. The proposed $115 million project includes 60 medical-surgical beds, 8 intensive-care beds and 12 beds in a maternity ward. The facility would also include an emergency department and imaging, laboratory and rehabilitation services, health system officials said. The hospital would open in January 2015 and create about 400 jobs.
"We have been committed to the residents of Haymarket and the surrounding community for more than 45 years, and we want to continue that tradition," Cynda Tipple, chief operating officer of Prince William Hospital, said in an e-mail. "The community has recognized our commitment and has asked us to build a hospital."
The Heathcote center, a 24-hour emergency facility, served more than 13,000 people last year, company officials said. The western end of the county also has the Cancer Center at Lake Manassas -- a partnership between Prince William and Fauquier hospitals -- and the Prince William Medical Center, which houses various specialists. Sentara doesn't have any facilities in the western end of the county.
"There is a high concentration of people who live in the area," Krakaur said, adding that the area is only going to grow. "The state medical facilities plan said people should have care within a 30-minute drive from home, and many people in that area can't make that run in 30 minutes because of traffic. . . . I think that is why we will be successful."
Covington said that among his district, the Gainesville district, Manassas and Manassas Park, about 150,000 people who would probably be served by the proposed facilities. Covington said he supports a new hospital, or maybe two, as Prince William is losing insurance dollars when people go to neighboring jurisdictions for care.
The certificate of public need process is about halfway complete for both companies, Bodin said.
After the public hearing Monday, the comments, along with a recommendation by the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia, will be sent to state health officials, who will make a recommendation to the state health commissioner, Bodin said. The commissioner makes the final decision.
Approval is based on numerous factors, Bodin said, including whether there is a need for the service, whether the project is financially feasible, whether there is support from the community and whether the project introduces a new level of positive competition among providers.
If state health officials recommend denial of either application, then both proposals go to an administrative law judge, who makes a recommendation that is also sent to the commissioner, Bodin said. Any applicant denied by the commissioner can appeal to Circuit Court.