The Fairfax Hospital Association yesterday unveiled an ambitious $60 million plan to expand health care facilities in the county, including a proposal to build a new $30 million hospital in western Fairfax County, near the intersection of Rte. 50 and I-66.
The new hospital proposal is expected to encounter stiff opposition from regional health planners, and possible competition from Hospital Corp. of America, a for-profit hospital chain that also would like to build a new hospital in the lucrative western Fairfax market.
"There are three projects which we consider are of the utmost urgency in the short-term planning cycle if we are to continue to provide the community with the amount and quality of health care which it demands," association board member Allan Wulff said at the news conference. The association now operates the three county hospitals -- Fairfax, Commonwealth and Mount Vernon.
The anticipated opposition of the staff of the Health Systems Agency of Virginia, a federally mandated group that oversees expensive area health care decisions and which contends there are too many hospital beds in Northern Virginia, is considered a serious roadblock to the plan. The agency's recommendations normally are influential in the decision made by the state health commissioner on a certificate of need, which must be issued before any new hospital facility can be built.
"I'm not aware that there's anything in the proposal that substantially changes the problem we had beforehand," said Health Systems Agency associate director George Barker.
He said that the agency planners had made it "quite clear" they had problems with the association proposal.
The association plan requests permission to relocate Commonwealth Hospital from Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City to the Fair Oaks Mall area west of the city and to construct a $30 million critical-care wing to Fairfax Hospital on Gallows Road.
The association already has asked state permission to establish a kidney disease center at Mount Vernon Hospital and expand its neurological rehabilitation unit there. That request is pending.
Barker said that because the proposed Mount Vernon units are outpatient operations, they would do nothing to alleviate the overbedding problem at the hospital, which planners contend is underused.
Association Vice President Donald L. Harris countered that the new units would bring additional patients to the hospital, at a cost of about $80,000.
In addition to the three immediate projects, the association outlined its long-range plans for the county, including a professional building for doctors' offices near the new hospital; comprehensive alcoholism treatment centers in the Reston, Fairfax City and Mount Vernon areas; and construction of a women's, children's and ambulatory wing at Fairfax Hospital.