Loudoun County to get new hospital; it'll just take a while

Rendering of a new hospital proposed for Loudoun County that will be built by HCA Virginia on Route 50.
Rendering of a new hospital proposed for Loudoun County that will be built by HCA Virginia on Route 50. (Courtesy of the Casey Group/HCA Virginia)
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

After an eight-year battle over who should dominate its growing health-care market, Loudoun County will get a major hospital at its southern end. But the 164-bed facility won't break ground for more than a year and will take at least five years to build, officials said Tuesday.

Richmond-based Hospital Corp. of America must submit site plans and seek other county approvals for StoneSpring Regional Medical Center, and it will not open until December 2015, company officials said. But Monday's unanimous vote by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors to allow the for-profit chain to build a $195 million hospital ends the dominance of nonprofit Inova Health System in the county.

"Our goal all along was to build a hospital where it was needed and expand our footprint in Northern Virginia," said Mark Foust, a spokesman for HCA Virginia, which operates 13 other hospitals in the state. HCA also operates Reston Hospital Center and plans to expand soon into Spotsylvania County. StoneSpring will be Northern Virginia's second for-profit hospital.

HCA, the country's largest hospital company, first met with Loudoun officials in 2001 about a plan to expand health care in one of the country's fastest-growing counties, now served by Inova Loudoun Hospital. HCA proposed a site in the densely populated Broadlands community, but its location five miles from the Inova site spurred attacks and a publicity campaign by Inova. The opposition sunk the HCA plan, which the county board voted down in February 2009.

HCA shifted strategies late last year, announcing that it would abandon the Broadlands hospital for a location on Route 50 at Gum Spring Road in southern Loudoun. The area is not growing as fast as Broadlands, "but there is a business case for both locations," Foust said. He said that as many as half of Loudoun hospital patients have sought inpatient care outside the county to avoid long waiting lists at Inova Loudoun Hospital.

Inova spokesman Tony Raker said Monday's vote guarantees "equal access to health care for all residents" of Loudoun. Had the board approved HCA's Broadlands plan, "two facilities would have served the same population, and that did not meet the equal-access test," he said.

But the supervisors concluded that two hospitals cannot just survive in their county, but ultimately must provide cheaper and better care for their constituents.

"I'm interested in providing competitive health care to the citizens who live here,'' said Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles), whose district includes both hospitals. He said the competitors "will have to find ways to operate at maximum efficiency while preserving the integrity of their care."

Staff writer Sholnn Freeman contributed to this report.

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