Hopkins Acquires Suburban Hospital

Campus Expansion to Be Reviewed

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation said yesterday that it will acquire Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, converting the Montgomery County hospital into a Hopkins subsidiary.

The new relationship will give the $4.5 billion Hopkins system a greater presence in the Washington region and closer proximity to the National Institutes of Health and its millions of dollars in research funding. Suburban is across from NIH, on Old Georgetown Road.

Suburban's patients and medical personnel will have easier access to Hopkins personnel and facilities. The Baltimore-based organization has one of the nation's leading medical schools, an extensive research faculty and a sprawling hospital system that includes Howard County General Hospital in Columbia.

Suburban officials began informing Montgomery leaders in recent days of the plans but did not spell out financial arrangements. A Hopkins official said yesterday that in a deal expected to be final by early fall, the company had agreed to acquire Suburban's assets and liabilities, although there would be no financial exchange. Hopkins also will reexamine a $135 million proposal, under review by a Montgomery hearing examiner, to expand Suburban's Bethesda campus.

Suburban officials have pressed for several years for expansion, saying it is necessary if the hospital is to continue to provide expert care. The plans have generated opposition in nearby neighborhoods, where residents worry about traffic, a plan to close a street and a proposal to tear down more than 20 houses.

In recent years, Suburban has broadened its relationship with NIH and expanded its cardiac surgery and stroke programs and trauma center. Suburban's board approved the Hopkins deal yesterday, following approval by the Hopkins board April 13.

"We think [Suburban] is a financially very strong organization," said Steven J. Thompson, senior vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. He said Hopkins officials will examine the expansion proposal for the Bethesda campus and said the company would "work . . . to find an affordable, acceptable plan."

Timothy Firestine, top aide to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said the new relationship "is a huge positive for Montgomery County and the community." Firestine formerly served on Suburban's board.

Suburban Hospital opened in 1943. It has 238 licensed beds and annual admissions of nearly 15,000, and its total revenue is about $400 million, according to a news release.

Affiliates of Hopkins include the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Inc. and Howard County General Hospital Inc., along with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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