A second hospital in Loudoun moves closer to reality

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010

The long-running controversy over where to build Loudoun County's next hospital is expected to move closer to a conclusion this week when the county Planning Commission considers the proposed StoneSpring Regional Medical Center.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing Wednesday on StoneSpring, a proposed 164-bed facility along Route 50 at Gum Spring Road in Sterling that would be built by the Hospital Corporation of America. HCA, a for-profit company that has headquarters in Richmond, operates 13 facilities in the state, including the Reston Hospital Center.

The 337,000-square-foot StoneSpring facility is projected to cost $195 million, open in December 2015 and employ 500 people. HCA officials said the hospital would generate $3 million annually in tax revenue. The HCA plan needs approvals from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

The Planning Commission could act on the proposal at Wednesday's meeting. On Friday, Robert Klancher, chairman of the Planning Commission, said all of the e-mailed comments about the project received by the commission so far have been supportive. "There is a generally a sense of support for HCA to locate on the property on Route 50," Klancher said. "I haven't seen any opposition at this point."

A favorable vote on the project would send it on to the Board of Supervisors, which has rejected other HCA hospital plans in recent years.

In February 2009, supervisors voted down a proposal by HCA to build a hospital in the more densely populated Broadlands community of eastern Loudoun. The Broadlands hospital plan was heavily attacked by Inova Health System, which operates Loudoun Hospital five miles away.

To fight the Broadlands hospital proposal, Inova took out newspaper ads, saturated the Broadlands neighborhood with direct mail and supported a grass-roots movement whose members spoke out against HCA's plan at public meetings.

HCA shifted strategies late last year. The company announced that it would abandon the Broadlands hospital in favor of the southern Loudoun location. The move ended the fierce years-long struggle between the two health-care providers.

Inova dropped its opposition to the HCA hospital project last year after the location was moved to Route 50. In a statement last year, Inova called the location shift "good news."

The new HCA location "has more access for citizens of Loudoun County and doesn't duplicate services within a five-mile radius of where Loudoun Hospital already has existing services," Inova spokesman Tony Raker said Friday.

Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) said opposition to a new HCA hospital has diminished now that Inova has stopped fighting it. Because fewer people live near the new site, a groundswell of community resistance is unlikely, he said.

"I doubt there will be remotely the same opposition," Miller said. "Right now, it looks promising. We definitely would like to have a second hospital in Loudoun. I never thought having only one service provider was good for the community."

Miller said he would not make a final decision until the proposal reached the Board of Supervisors.

HCA officials said StoneSpring would be equipped with a full-scale emergency department, a 12-bed maternity center and 40 beds devoted to child and adolescent mental health.

"Loudoun has been one of the fastest-growing counties for a number of years," said Tracey White, vice president of government and community relations for HCA. "There is widespread and deep support for this hospital in this location."

The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg.

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