Fairfax Hospital has won approval from the Virginia State Health Commissioner to build a long-sought outpatient center adjacent to its main building on Gallows Road.

State Health Commissioner James Kenley last week approved construction of the $3.1 million outpatient center. The three-story structure is expected to be completed by late 1978, said Greg Taylor, assistant director of planning for the Fairfax Hospital Association which runs Fairfax Hospital.

"The approval is tremendous; a real victory for the citizens of Fairfax County to whom we will be able to provide better services," said Fairfax Hospital Administrator P. David Youngdahl. "This center is a greatly needed facility and one long overdue for our area."

Approval of the center marks the end of a five-year effort by the hospital association to expand outpatient services at Fairfax Hospital.

Two previous proposals were rejected by the hospital's internal review process, and the new center had been opposed by members of a Northern Virginia health planning agency before finally winning approval from the agency's board in December. The health agency is responsible for planning health care needs in Northern Virginia and acts in an advisory capacity to the state health commissioner.

The new center will be built near the hospital's existing outpatient and emergency departments. It will include a radiation therapy department for cancer patients to be headed by Dr. Charlotte Donlon who operates one of two radiation therapy clinics in Northern Virginia at Seven Corners. Physician and technician offices will be located within the radiation department.

The 29,075 square foot outpatient addition also will include eight new X-ray rooms giving the hospital a total of 20 radiology rooms when the center is completed.

The outpatient clinic area of the addition will contain 12 examination rooms, and a speech and hearing clinic. An eye clinic, now on hhe tenth floor of the hospital, will be moved to this area.

Waiting rooms and dressing areas for outpatient surgery patients and visitors will be located on the top floo r of the building, along with the corporate offices of the Fairfax Hospital Association. Hospital spokesmen say about a third of the hospital's surgery is done on an outpatient basis.

Relocation of facilities into the outpatient center will allow the hospital to create new offices for employee health services, some hospital-based physicians and a vocational rehabilitation counselor. The reshuffling also is expected to allow the hospital to open 22 additional beds which may be used for psychiatric care of alcohol treatment, hospital spokesmen say. About 1,200 square feet of unfinished space will be included for future expansion.

"The key to the importance of the center is that it will allow us to better coordinate outpatient and inpatient care," Youngdahl said. "There are a lot more problems for both the patient and the hospital when patients seen elsewhere are finally admitted into Fairfax."

Bids for construction of the hospital are not expected to open until early summer, Taylor said.In the meantime, final details of the design for the center - including lighting and placement of electrical outlets and equipment - are being worked out with the center's architects, Davis and Smith of Reston.

The new center represents a pared-down version of earlier proposals for expanded outpatient services at Fairfax Hospital. Review committees within the hospital in 1973 rejected a $11.3 million 10-story support services center which would have included physician's offices, greatly expanded X-rays services, labs and clinics. In 1974, another $7.3 million center was rejected . That outpatient area would have included a medical records division, medical staff area, educational facilities and an expanded emergency room.

The newly-approved center - one Fairfax Hospital Association Executive Vice President termed "the absolute minimal construction the hospital could undertake" for improved outpatient services - had been opposed by a committee of the Northern Virginia Health Systems agency on the grounds it would contribute to over-expansion of health services in the area and lead to higher health care costs.

A project review committee of the health agency recommended against the center as proposed in November, but the recommendation was overturned in December by the agency's board of directors which voted 16-12 in favor of the expansion. The State Health Coordinating Council, which hears recommendations of local health planning agencies and advises the health commissioner, recently voted unanimously in favor of the outpatient expansion.

In approving the center, Kenley cited the following reasons justifying its construction:

The center had been recommended by the Northern Virginia Health Systems Agency.

It had been recommended by the state Health Coordinating Council.

It would offer alternatives to inpatient hospital care in Northern Virginia.

It would contribute to the orderly development of outpatient services for Northern Virginia.

It would be compatible with Virginia's temporary plan for medical services development throughout the state.

The Northern Virginia Health Systems Agency staff had indicated that the center's radiology department was unneeded because there is adequate radiology treatment services in Northern Virginia and an excess in Washington D.C. The staff also noted that there is substantial unused space already in the hospital (the ninth floor is empty) which could be used for the hospital association's offices and waiting and dressing rooms.In addition, the staff report said the hospital's radiology expansion could be delayed until the full impact of the new Mt. Vernon hospital and the not yet opened ACCESS emergency center in Reston could be determined on Fairfax Hospital's utilization.