Message Is Loud and Clear
During the campaign leading up to the Northern Virginia sales tax referendum, I maintained a stance of public neutrality because the ballot question was intended to elicit the views of the voters. It was not a question about the views of local government officials; it was about listening to the citizens.
The people have spoken, and the clear message that was sent to Richmond simply put is: The citizens of the county want better growth management and more of their tax dollars returned to where they are generated.
You can be certain that I will be working hard for the taxpayers of our county in a bipartisan fashion to fight for these objectives.
Scott K. York
Chairman, Board of Supervisors
Better Health Care Needed
For many years, I have intentionally avoided public comment on the issue of health care in Loudoun County, mainly because I have not felt as though I understood it and because I am not a student of health care problems. However, the recent series of comments and efforts by Loudoun Hospital Center have made silence unacceptable to me.
When I heard about the possibility of a new hospital coming to Loudoun, I was thrilled. I have been, like many others, denied emergency room service and/or admission to Loudoun Hospital. I have been, like many others, forced to sit for hours and hours waiting for the needed treatment. I have been told that I was being sent home, not because it was the medically right thing to do, but because my bed was needed.
As an inpatient, I had a serious medical procedure done to me, which was not needed nor directed by my doctor. As an outpatient, I was given a procedure that was not necessary and that caused a serious reaction that still contributes to a serious medical problem. And I have been forced to go out of county for some medical care, because of unavailability of medical equipment. Lastly, I was advised by staff members that if I needed a serious medical procedure, I should not go to Loudoun Hospital. I am sure others have had similar experiences.
I was, like many others, shocked and perplexed when the hospital moved from downtown Leesburg to Lansdowne. On reflection, the move was a total disaster, and the perpetrators were irresponsible and caused serious harm to the community. Massive pressure was placed on the board of directors to vote for and sanctify that move. The question of how they could justify reducing the number of beds from 120 to 80 was never answered. Just more pressure was added.
Then the move happened, and we have suffered and continue to suffer the results: reduced medical care, staff cuts, poor patient meals, inconvenience and unnecessary financial problems.
For whatever reason, LHC stopped being our community hospital. As recently as last month, LHC, as part of their unethical campaign to deny more beds and better care for Loudoun County, sent out a piece of propaganda that called the move a fantastic success. Get real!
I now believe that, for whatever reason, the same insensitiveness and lack of concern for the health care of Loudoun County is driving their efforts to stop a new, larger and perhaps better hospital from locating in Loudoun. The proposed new hospital has stated publicly that it would not try to collect bills from those users who are under the poverty level, a situation unfortunately affecting many Loudoun residents. LHC presently places those bills in a nasty collection process.
Loudoun Hospital Center should stop defending its turf, or whatever motives it may have, and support better health care for all of Loudoun. Besides everything else, how many new jobs will transfer to Loudoun County with a new 180-bed hospital?
Any politician supporting more and better health care is doing what is right for the community. If we lose this new hospital, Loudoun can only expect an intolerable medical problem to get worse.
Common Sense Questions
Recently, Loudoun County residents have been bombarded with political campaign-style advertising from both Loudoun Hospital Center and HCA Broadlands. Thankfully, my family and I are not large consumers of health care services. Nevertheless, we obviously are interested in having high quality health care available in our area. But what is driving the acrimony between these two organizations? And why should I care if Loudoun County ends up with two high quality inpatient facilities instead of one?
Loudoun Hospital Center claims that having another provider of health care services within five miles of their new facility is bad and wrong and evil. I cannot figure out why, as a consumer of health care services, I would find this objectionable. As a businessman, it is clear why Loudoun Hospital would like to maintain its monopoly on inpatient health-care facilities in the rapidly growing county.
Loudoun Hospital freely admits that it is routinely more than 100 percent occupied and that many Loudoun residents journey to nearby counties to receive health care services. Clearly, there is some room for additional facilities. So why is it bad or wrong or evil to have a competing hospital in Loudoun?
Loudoun Hospital claims that a proposed new hospital will significantly reduce Loudoun Hospital's revenue. Of course it will! So what? As a consumer, I would prefer if Loudoun Hospital has to compete harder to be the health care provider of choice. If I operated a hardware store, I would hate (and fight!) to make sure Home Depot did not open a new store five miles down the road. As a consumer, I know I'll probably get better service at both stores as a result of competition.
Loudoun Hospital Center claims that the opening of HCA Broadlands will result in a loss of jobs for Loudoun Hospital employees. That certainly is a potential outcome of competition. But, as a consumer, why should I care? If skilled nursing positions are displaced at Loudoun Hospital Center by HCA, it is most likely that HCA will hire their staff from that very same pool of displaced workers. The net result would be more jobs for skilled workers in total. I am sure it is not a good idea to protect Loudoun Hospital's monopoly.
Finally, as a taxpayer in Loudoun County (a county with a grim outlook for fixed debt service coverage), why would I be opposed to a well-capitalized, publicly traded corporation like HCA building a multimillion physical asset and joining the ranks of property-tax paying businesses?
The proposed HCA hospital will not put any children in the school system. The new hospital will be a significant contributor to the tax base. Why should I oppose that? Does Loudoun Hospital Center pay property taxes to Loudoun County?
Just a few short years ago, Loudoun Hospital Center was in dire financial straits, entirely as the result of bad management and bad business decisions despite the fact that occupancy levels were very high. How did this happen? Somehow, they bailed themselves out of that mess. Based on their history, an outsider would conclude that Loudoun Hospital Center is not a well-managed organization. Why should the citizens of Loudoun County want to put all their faith in an organization that very recently ran itself into the ground?
If HCA officials think that Loudoun County is a good place to expand their business, bring them in. The Board of Supervisors should be actively encouraging businesses to locate in Loudoun County to help pay for the debt burden they have imposed on us by issuing bonds to pay for buildings (such as the County Government Center, the school administration building) that many citizens, through their votes, have indicated they do not want and programs (such as Purchase of Development Rights) that benefit only a few at a cost to many, again much to the consternation of many Loudoun citizens.
If HCA Broadlands wants to invest in Loudoun County, why should we object?