Purcellville Town Council members and area residents expressed their concern Tuesday night over the possibility that Loudoun Healthcare Inc. may close its urgent care center in the town by year's end.

The 2 1/2-year-old facility, the only hospital-affiliated medical center in western Loudoun, sees 14 to 16 patients a day. But it lost more than $660,000 last year, according to Loudoun Healthcare interim chief executive Joseph A. Ruffolo, leading to efforts to shut it down.

Purcellville Mayor John D. Marsh told several residents at Tuesday's council meeting that the closure might come as early as Oct. 31, based on information he said his office had received from a hospital official.

But hospital spokeswoman Linda Roberts yesterday denied that a specific date had been picked, saying that Loudoun Healthcare's board of directors will decide at its Oct. 28 meeting whether to close the center and, if so, when.

In response, Marsh said yesterday that the Oct. 31 closing date was mentioned in a phone message left at his office, reportedly by a hospital official. Marsh said he did not know the identity of the official.

Loudoun Healthcare leased the space for the urgent care center in 1997 after it decided to move the county's hospital from Leesburg to Lansdowne, farther from Purcellville.

"We gave the hospital a lot of blind trust," said Purcellville council member Paul D. Arbogast Sr. "Now they're going to take the facility they promised away from us."

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Ruffolo said an ongoing audit of the hospital's finances is expected to show that it lost $17 million in fiscal 1999, in addition to a $10 million deficit the previous year.

"It's the same issues as in 1998," Ruffolo said. "It only worsened in terms of having the operating expense levels far in excess of what the patient care revenues would support."

The audit is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

In addition, Ruffolo said he is trying to secure a loan of $3 million to $5 million to repay some or all of a $5 million loan Loudoun Hospital received from Inova Health Systems, Virginia's largest nonprofit health care provider.

The Inova loan, for which Loudoun's former hospital grounds in Leesburg were used as collateral, expires mid-January. Ruffolo said possible new lenders include Bank of America and Potomac Valley, First Union, Crestar, Wachovia and Middleburg banks.

"We're very appreciative of Inova's help, but they're not in the business of being a bank," Ruffolo said.

Joseph Finizio, chief of radiology at Loudoun Hospital, and Ray F. Lower, an orthopedist, both part of the investor group that owns the building where the urgent care center is located, attended Tuesday's meeting.

Finizio assured those present that his group plans at some point to open a full-service emergency room and a high-tech imaging center in the space the urgent care center now occupies. Other plans call for a 4,000-square-foot building to be constructed next door, which Lower said would have offices for a dentist and a physical therapist.

The doctors said they do not have financing yet and hope to develop a partnership or work with a hospital to run the emergency room. Five doctors currently have offices in a portion of the center, offering such services as mammograms, ultrasound, X-rays, biopsies and orthopedic treatment, the two doctors said.