Inova Mount Vernon Hospital will not be closed or relocated, Inova officials said yesterday, announcing long-awaited plans for the financially troubled hospital that include building a separate emergency care facility for the Lorton area's growing population.
The news was a relief to Mount Vernon area residents and physicians, many of whom were outraged by Inova's suggestion nearly two years ago that the 232-bed facility might be moved to more populous southeastern Fairfax County to serve more patients. The current hospital would have been turned into an emergency facility.
Critics, many of whom packed town hall meetings and wrote copious letters of complaint, accused the not-for-profit Inova chain of caring more about competing for patients than providing needed care.
Yesterday the tone shifted to one of hope.
"Building a Healthplex can be a 14th-inning home run for the Richmond Highway [corridor] and our growing Lorton communities," said Fairfax County Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who was an outspoken critic of the proposed relocation. "With a Healthplex to feed [patients] to Mount Vernon hospital, we protect what we know and love, while acknowledging the legitimate needs of Inova. This could be the win-win we've always wanted."
When the relocation proposal surfaced in November 2002, Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) encouraged his constituents to fight. Yesterday, he expressed satisfaction and credited Inova for listening to its patients.
"From my standpoint, we couldn't have better news," Hyland said. "I can't think of a better example of a hospital system working toward a community goal: keeping this hospital in its current location. I couldn't be happier on behalf of the citizens I represent. It's a wonderful day for Mount Vernon."
In March, an advisory task force recommended that Inova continue to operate the 28-year-old hospital on Parker's Lane and commit money -- an estimated $100 million in the next 10 years -- to provide more comprehensive services and reverse the financial losses. The task force also suggested that Inova open an emergency care center in Lorton.
Of Inova's five hospitals, Mount Vernon is the only one operating in the red, with losses of about $8 million last year and projected losses of about $5 million this year. Officials have cited several causes, including higher costs, fewer patients because of the closing of Woodlawn Road through Fort Belvoir and a greater percentage of uninsured patients.
Yesterday Inova officials outlined plans to make Mount Vernon Hospital "everything it can be." Enhanced services, they said, would be achieved with the aid of the Healthplex at Interstate 95 and Lorton Road.
The Healthplex would serve two primary roles, providing emergency and diagnostic care to the community and serving as a feeder facility for Mount Vernon Hospital, where many of the patients would be sent for extended care, officials said.
Officials said there are no plans to eliminate any services at Mount Vernon Hospital. Officials said they are expanding cardiac imaging at Mount Vernon at a cost of $9.2 million.
"The hope is that we become robust," said Susan Herbert, administrator at Inova Mount Vernon. "We listened to a lot of constituents. We did the due diligence. And now there's clarity."