A Healthy Choice

This community has the fortunate opportunity to have an entity ready, willing and able to construct a second hospital to serve our friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Who among us, when faced with a moment of need, would not welcome the chance to be treated in a state-of-the-art facility near our homes? The time for a second hospital is now. The location is Ashburn. Broadlands Regional Medical Center (BRMC) is that facility.

Why Ashburn? Well, it's because that's where the greatest percentage of Loudoun County's population lives, both now and in the future. That's not to say there won't be people or development in other parts of the county or that other areas of the county shouldn't want a hospital on the next street over, but for now, Ashburn is where the greatest concentration of people is and will be.

The Loudoun County Department of Economic Development estimates that more than 57,000 people live in the Ashburn area, making it the most populous area in the county in fiscal year 2004. Moreover, when the population of Leesburg, Sterling and Potomac Falls is combined with Ashburn's, the total population of northeastern Loudoun is approximately 175,000, which is 76 percent of the estimated 230,000 residents living in Loudoun.

Even with continued development in other parts of the county, northeastern Loudoun will remain the predominate housing market in the community. The Economic Development Department predicts that 219,000 people will live in northeastern Loudoun in 2010, accounting for more than 70 percent of the county's population.

If, as Tony Raker suggested in a recent letter ["Facing Hospital Facts," Loudoun Extra, June 6], Loudoun Hospital Center (LHC) agrees that Loudoun needs and deserves a second hospital, why is LHC insisting that any new hospital be constructed where fewer than 10 percent of the county's residents live?

To be successful and beneficial to the community they serve, hospitals, like any other service, must be convenient to the greatest number of people. If only 10 percent of the population now lives where LHC proposes its only competitor should locate, how much benefit can the typical Loudoun resident expect from the new hospital?

BRMC, unlike LHC, would be centrally located to serve all Loudoun residents. It would be located along one of three primary east-west transportation corridors and one of four primary north-south transportation links. It would be six miles closer via Route 659 to residents living along Route 50 in southern Loudoun who, perhaps, have forgone trips to LHC due to an inability to easily access Lansdowne. That is partly why the state health commissioner approved BRMC.

Further, BRMC could not come at a better time or in a better location for Loudoun residents. Just recently, LHC filed papers with the state health commissioner indicating that, even with recent expansions, LHC already is operating at optimal capacity of its medical/surgical hospital beds. By the time BRMC would open in late 2007, LHC's own estimates have it operating at 15 percent to 20 percent over the state's recommended capacity. How this situation helps the 76 percent of Loudoun residents living in and around BRMC remains a mystery.

Loudoun residents need and deserve a state-of-the-art hospital that is conveniently located to as many people as possible. BRMC offers that. Loudoun residents need and deserve a second hospital to relieve expected crowding at LHC and to make long lines and a lack of available beds a distant memory in this community. BRMC offers that. Loudoun residents need and deserve choice in their health care, along with new services and specialties not available here. BRMC offers that.

It is unfortunate that LHC's recognition that a second hospital is needed in Loudoun comes with a caveat that it be located in an area that is convenient to only a small percentage of Loudoun's population. Then again, progress takes time.

Megan Descutner

Community relations director

Broadlands Regional Medical Center