The Virginia health commissioner has turned down a controversial proposal for a privately owned 200-bed hospital in Reston, saying it would lead to "excess hospital bed capacity" and higher medical costs in Northern Virginia.
Thomas W. McCandlish, a lawyer for Humana Inc., the Kentucky-based company that wants to build the $34 million hospital, said yesterday the company will file an administrative appeal to overturn the decision. "Humana remains committed to the process," McCandlish said. The company has proposed building the profit-making facility, called Cameron Woods Hospital, near the Dulles Access Road.
Many Fairfax County residents support the company's plan, contending that it now takes too long to reach any hospital from Reston. They say they may have to spend up to 45 minutes to get to the two nearest hospitals, Fairfax and Commonwealth, both operated by the nonprofit Fairfax Hospital Association.
In rejecting the company's plan, Commissioner James B. Kenley cited objections raised by several health-planning agencies that view the proposed hospital as unwarranted. In his decision, Kenley noted that some existing hospital space is currently unused, argued that building the proposed hospital would mean "unnecessarily duplicating" available services and denied that Reston residents face excessive travel time.
The proposed hospital "will not contribute to the orderly development or the proper distribution of health services and facilities in the Northern Virginia area," Kenley said.
In appealing his decision, the company may request an informal review by Virginia health officials. The next step would be a formal hearing before a state health official. Appeals procedures also provide for another hearing before an independent examiner appointed by the governor. If Kenley's initial decision is not altered, Humana could then file an appeal in a state circuit court.
Marilyn West, Virginia's health resources development director, said yesterday that the appeals procedures have only rarely been tested so far. Three appeals have been considered by independent examiners, she said. In two instances, the health commissioner's decision was upheld. In the third, it was rejected. "We can't at this point prejudge what will happen," she said.
Last month, the Northern Virginia Health Systems Agency urged Kenley to reject Humana's proposal, arguing that Northern Virginia's 2,100 hospital beds are "more than adequate to meet regional needs for at least the next five years."