Md. official sides with Holy Cross Hospital in two-way battle for building new facility

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2010; 10:01 PM

A key Maryland state official is siding with Holy Cross Hospital on its proposal to build a hospital in northern Montgomery County, according to her recommendation released Friday.

Adventist HealthCare and Holy Cross Hospital have been waging a costly and intense battle for the past two years to win state approval for a new hospital in Montgomery's fastest-growing region.

Holy Cross proposes to build a $202 million, 93-bed general acute-care hospital on the Germantown campus of Montgomery College. Adventist HealthCare, the county's largest employer, wants to build a $177 million, 86-bed acute-care hospital a few miles to the north in Clarksburg, along Interstate 270 between Shady Grove Adventist and Frederick Memorial hospitals.

The eagerly awaited recommendation from Marilyn Moon, who chairs the Maryland Health Care Commission, will carry significant weight when the full commission meets Jan. 20 to decide which proposal, if any, should proceed.

William "Bill" Robertson, president and chief executive of Adventist HealthCare, quickly issued a statement expressing dismay. Although he said he respected Moon's decision, "the flawed recommendation does nothing to stop our resolve to make sure Montgomery County's next hospital is in Clarksburg."

He said Adventist officials will urge the full commission to support the Clarksburg proposal and will file a written exception. They will argue their case at next month's commission meeting. A final decision is expected after that meeting.

Kevin Sexton, president and chief executive of Holy Cross, applauded Moon's decision.

"Today is obviously a terrific day not only from the standpoint of Holy Cross but also for the county and its people," he said. "To get to her decision, she had to first cross the important bridge of need."

If the commission approves a new hospital for Montgomery, it would be the county's first new one in 30 years and the first entirely new hospital in the state since the early 1990s.

A number of hospitals have been built in Maryland in recent years, including one that recently opened in Hagerstown, but those replaced existing facilities.

With nearly 1 million residents, affluent Montgomery is the most populous jurisdiction in Maryland, and the population of residents between 65 to 74 is expected to grow by about 117 percent from 2000 to 2020, according to county planners.

In her 181-page recommendation, Moon said the future growth and aging of the population would support the need for one but not two new hospitals in the upper-county area.

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