Serving Justice

In the wake of the recent sniper shootings, it would be easy for all of us to turn our backs on anything even remotely related to the rights of convicted criminals. I am certainly as eager as anyone to see criminals brought to justice. However, justice and the citizens of Virginia are not served when an innocent person is mistakenly convicted of a crime.

The voters of Virginia have the opportunity to vote Tuesday on an amendment to Article VI, Judiciary, Section 1 of the Virginia Constitution. This amendment would allow the Virginia Supreme Court to hear evidence of actual innocence concerning convicted felons.

I hope that the voters of Virginia will consider that new technology used in DNA analysis and other investigative applications have been used recently to prove the innocence of persons who were charged, convicted and even imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and that voters will support this amendment.

Marlene Barney

Sterling

Buck Stops in Richmond

On Tuesday, I expect to vote against the half-cent sales tax increase. Granted, the mushrooming population of both people and automobiles in Northern Virginia calls out for investing additional public funds into our transportation infrastructure. But given the amount of income tax Loudoun County residents currently send to Richmond, vs. what we get back (about 25 cents on the dollar), it seems there is money to invest; it's just not going to be invested here.

Instead of voting for this [measure], I think we need to realize our state legislators have simply failed to secure public funding for investment in this part of the state. Two of our local legislators (Dels. Richard H. Black [R-Loudoun] and Robert G.Marshall [R-Prince William]) worked hard to keep this referendum off the ballot. Ironically, had these legislators spent their time and effort working for their constituents to secure public funding for transportation investment in Loudoun County, it's very possible there would be no tax increase referendum.

The more I look at it, the more I see this referendum as an effort to make up for the inability of our local state representatives. That is no reason for voting in favor of it.

Bruce A. Kaiser

Sterling

A Critical Need

I am very concerned about Loudoun County residents' limited access to high quality health care. We are tired of being on bypass for emergency services and having to travel to Winchester, Fairfax and Arlington for health care. Loudoun Hospital Center (LHC) has been working to add 32 beds to the present 155 beds to boost their total beds to 187 by 2005.

In their certificate of public needs applications (COPN Request No. VA-6714 and COPN Request No. VA-6715), LHC stated it has been over 100 percent occupancy for the last four years. Most hospitals in the industry use 85 percent occupancy as their guide to seek expansion, thus always providing high quality medical care and succeeding financially. I am also very concerned that LHC would pay their own accountants $30,000 to complete the report stating a new hospital would damage them financially.

HCA's Broadlands Regional Medical Center (BRMC) plan is to close two obsolete and underutilized hospitals in Arlington and Alexandria whose residents will still have access to high quality health care in close proximity. The current Arlington facilities have been described as dinosaurs and are in dire need of replacement. HCA would like to relocate 104 medical/surgical beds, 16 ICU beds, 20 adult mental health and 40 child adolescent mental health beds to Loudoun, a rapidly growing and underserved area of the planning district.

HCA has secured support for the transition of the non-mental health beds to two hospitals within three miles of their current locations in Arlington. With LHC at over 100 percent occupancy now, and with the expected population growth to be greater than 300,000 by 2010, it is obvious we will need the additional 120 medical/surgical/ICU beds that BRMC would provide. In addition, Arlington would get the upgraded care this transition would provide.

Two hospitals working together can survive in Loudoun County, each providing their own centers of excellence. Loudoun Hospital Center currently provides labor and delivery; the Birthing Inn will open in December. LHC also has the Loudoun Nursing/Rehabilitation Center and the Countryside Ambulatory Services Center, as well as the Loudoun Cancer Center.

HCA's plans do not duplicate these types of services. Rather, the plan is to provide mental health services for children and adolescents, currently not available in Loudoun. Other services not provided by LHC but being offered by BRMC would be long-term ventilation services, lithotripsy and cardiac catheterization (angioplasty). Additionally, BRMC has designed the top floor (34 beds) to handle and treat patients who have been the victims of bioterrorism or terrorism in incidents related to airport disasters. The closest facility to Loudoun/Dulles right now is Inova Fairfax Hospital. With the growing threat of bioterrorism and the acts of Sept. 11, 2001, can we afford to wait for the unthinkable to happen again before we act?

Both hospitals need to work together, to explain to the Regional Health Systems Agency why there is a critical need for both hospitals to expand their services now to meet the medical needs of the exploding population growth of Loudoun County. The Regional Health Systems Agency believes that expanding Reston and Fair Oaks will meet the needs of Loudoun residents. The last time I checked, they are in Fairfax County, and these expansions do not provide the additional services we need and deserve in Loudoun.

Additionally, expanding LHC will not be enough to meet the needs of this growing county. We need LHC and BRMC. This is not politics! This is not space science! This is a real crisis that needs addressed now!

Catherine F. Dorman

Ashburn