RICHMOND, MARCH 3 -- A state Senate committee sided with five Northern Virginia jurisdictions today and killed an attempt by Prince William Hospital to block the local governments' plan to build a 164-bed nursing home for the poor near that hospital in Manassas.
In defeating the proposal by Del. Harry J. Parrish (R-Manassas), who is a volunteer member of the hospital's board and its parent corporation, the Senate Education and Health Committee waded once again into the thicket of health care financing problems that has confounded both the General Assembly and Gov. Gerald L. Baliles during this legislative session.
The nursing home proposed by Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties and Alexandria illustrates in miniature the statewide problem of ensuring adequate health for the indigent, an objective that has put an increasing financial burden on state and local governments, medical institutions, patients and taxpayers.
Representatives of the five local governments, led by Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, described their planned nursing home as an efficient if only partial response to the needs of hundreds of Northern Virginians who must travel great distances for their health care or go without.
Lambert also needled Prince William Hospital officials, who he said had tried selfishly through Parrish's bill "to ensure their financial viability and monopolistic tendency."
"This is indeed the emperor's clothes," Lambert said of the legislation, which had passed the House of Delegates.
Spokesmen for the hospital, which also is trying in court to block the counties' nursing home, said the project would only add to their burden of providing care for the poor and other services for which the institution often receives no compensation. They also contended that nursing homes in the individual jurisidictions would be far more sensible than a central facility in the outer county of Prince William.
"Indigent patients have a right to service, but they have a right to service in their own community," said Thomas W. McCandlish, a Richmond-based lobbyist for the hospital.
Parrish's bill was only the latest chapter in a tale that began nearly four years ago when the District Home, the counties' cooperative care facility near Manassas, asked the state for permission to build a nursing home on a nearby tract the jursidictions had jointly owned for about 40 years.
The state gave its blessing to the nursing home in late 1985, after the counties pledged the facility would not put a financial burden on Prince William Hospital.
Shortly after that, the nursing home project stalled amid complaints from the hospital, which also decided to seek state permission for a nursing home of its own. Since then, the five jurisdictions have reapplied, so there are now two rival applications for new nursing homes in Manassas pending with the state.
Parrish told lawmakers today that he believes the Baliles administration will approve the counties' request, but Health Commissioner C.M.G. Buttery, who will make that decision, declined to tell the panel what he plans to do.
In the meantime, 850 new nursing home beds have been approved for construction in Northern Virginia, a total that Prince William Hospital says shows the counties' project is unnecessary, but which the counties contend will barely meet the needs of the ailing poor.