The Northern Virginia Health Systems Agency has recommended that the Virginia health commissioner reject proposals to add 68 beds to the 656-bed Fairfax Hospital on Gallows Road and build a new heart surgery unit at Mount Vernon Hospital in eastern Fairfax.

The Fairfax Hospital Association, which runs the county's four public hospitals, will contest the recommendation, Peggy Pond, association community relations director, said.

Earlier this year the association opposed a controversial proposal before the HSA to build a new hospital in Reston, saying the area didn't need it. The Kentucky-based company proposing the hospital, Humana Inc., saw its plan rejected by the HSA and the state health commissioner.

Pond said Fairfax Hospital needs more beds because it is overcrowded and that Fairfax County needs more heart surgery facilities. But HSA executive director Dean Montgomery said Fairfax Hospital would have enough beds if some services were moved to other county hospitals. He said the heart surgery unit should remain at Fairfax Hospital or be moved to Mount Vernon, a proposal hospital officials called impractical.

Montgomery called Mount Vernon Hospital, near Hybla Valley off Richmond Highway, a "white elephant" that has been underused since it was opened in 1976. Both Mount Vernon and the association's Commonwealth Hospital on Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City are "very inefficiently operated," Montgomery said.

Under the association proposal slightly more than $3 million would be spent adding beds to Fairfax Hospital's ninth floor. The new heart unit would cost $1 million.