Ailing Loudoun Healthcare Inc. is soliciting proposals for short- and long-term solutions to its financial crisis--and has received at least one response.

Inova Health System, Virginia's largest not-for-profit health care provider, has initially agreed to lend Loudoun Healthcare $5 million, according to Inova spokeswoman Lisa Wolfington. She would not say whether the loan will be unsecured or what might be used as collateral.

In a letter to Inova dated June 17, Loudoun Healthcare President G.T. Dunlop Ecker had asked for one or two loans of as much as $10 million "to provide some additional cushion" as long-term solutions to the crisis are sought. Loudoun Healthcare officials say they are determined to keep Loudoun Hospital Center, the county's only hospital, independent.

Ecker's letter to Inova suggested several possible options, including an immediate unsecured loan of $4 million to $10 million "and/or" an immediate unsecured loan of $2 million, followed "immediately" by a secured loan of $4 million to $10 million that would be used to pay off the initial $2 million debt.

As collateral, Ecker offered equipment, the old hospital campus on Cornwall Street in Leesburg, the operations of Loudoun Healthcare's ambulatory surgery center in Sterling or "certain other real estate assets." In addition to the hospital's Lansdowne and Cornwall campuses, Loudoun Healthcare owns Frazier Farm near Hamilton and the Orme property in Leesburg, among others.

"We sent several proposals identically worded to several other organizations," said Ecker. He declined to identify the other organizations.

Inova's response, signed by consultant J. Hamilton Lambert, former Fairfax County manager, outlined several scenarios for helping Loudoun Healthcare:

* Providing an unsecured $2 million until a $5 million first trust could be placed on the Cornwall campus, valued by Ecker at $10 million to $12 million. "Inova would also wish to discuss additional participation in the site if [Loudoun Healthcare] finds it advisable."

* Purchasing a percentage of the surgery center in Sterling for as much as $3 million. Inova proposes dividing the ownership equally among Inova, Loudoun Healthcare and the medical community.

* Giving Loudoun Healthcare an option to participate in a potential ambulatory center in the South Riding area.

Wolfington said the two organizations have not discussed those proposals yet.

"Right now, we're just talking about a $5 million loan," she said, noting there are no discussions related to a purchase of Loudoun Healthcare by Inova.

Lambert, who also is helping Leesburg find a new town manager, acts as an adviser to Inova, according to Wolfington. "He knows the Loudoun community very well; he's really a liaison for us," she said.

Loudoun Healthcare's board will meet in a couple of weeks to discuss Inova's response, as well as proposals from other organizations. Officials reported earlier this month that unexpected costs associated with running two campuses, the acquisition of physicians' practices and managed care have contributed to a $20 million loss over the last two years.

In addition to securing financing, Ecker said Loudoun Healthcare is "looking at the restructuring of management" and expects to make announcements in that regard in the next week to 10 days. So far, Cheree Cleghorn, senior vice president for corporate communications, has resigned effective at the end of the month.