Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring has requested permission from Maryland officials to build the first new nursing home in the state with a special wing for AIDS patients, hospital officials said yesterday.
If the state approves the hospital's application, Holy Cross officials said they will build a 135-bed facility in eastern Montgomery County near Burtonsville by 1990, with a separate 15-bed wing for patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
One nursing home in Baltimore received special permission from the state two years ago to care for AIDS patients and now has several staying there. However, according to state officials, many health facilities, fearful of the stigma associated with AIDS, have resisted offering services for AIDS patients.
In the District, two government-run nursing homes, D.C. Village and J.B. Johnson, accept AIDS patients, said officials of the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Most AIDS patients are cared for now in hospitals during the last stages of the deadly disease, but many could be cared for in less costly nursing homes or hospices instead, Maryland health officials said.
Maryland is expected to have 1,000 AIDS cases by 1991, according to state health officials. The District and Maryland health departments have reported 841 AIDS cases and 685 deaths from AIDS since 1982. Virginia has reported 223 cases during the same period.
James Lynch, senior vice president for corporate development at Holy Cross, said the privately run, 25-year-old hospital decided to set aside 15 beds in the new nursing home for AIDS patients because "it's a very logical extension of our mission and ministry to meet a need that's growing."
Lynch also said the nursing home care would be "a much more appropriate level of care than a hospital setting . . . . "
The $5.5 million nursing home, which would be built on 13 acres at the corner of Greencastle Road and Rte. 29, would accept AIDS patients from Montgomery County and the rest of the state, Lynch said.
Scott Stamford, chief of the division of AIDS prevention in the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said, "We hope this is the beginning of the nursing home industry recognizing that AIDS affects every aspect of the health care system."
Stamford said nursing home care for AIDS patients costs one-third of what it costs in a hospital.
Andy Solberg, a health care consultant from Columbia who helped Holy Cross develop its nursing home proposal, said very few nursing homes across the country now admit AIDS patients, although many of them "are thinking about it."
Other nursing homes in the state have been reluctant to accept AIDS patients, state officials said.
"I think stigma is the biggest issue," said Harry Schwartz, director of the office of licensing and certification in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which gives nursing homes permission to care for AIDS patients.
Nursing homes "fear the adverse publicity, or that their staff might leave or that the other patients might leave," he said.
Holy Cross Hospital and eight nursing home operators are vying for permission to build nursing homes in Montgomery County, where 449 nursing home beds are needed by 1988, according to state officials. There are 26 nursing homes in Montgomery and 210 in Maryland.
So far, only Holy Cross has proposed establishing a wing for AIDS patients. But the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission, the state agency that approves nursing home applications, has asked the other eight nursing home applicants if they would include beds for AIDS patients.
The commission will decide on the Holy Cross proposal later this year, officials said.