Isabel Doran, 4, gets a CT scan at Children's National Medical Center in the District. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

Inova, headquartered in Falls Church, operates hospitals in Alexandria, Fair Oaks, Fairfax, Leesburg and Mount Vernon, but lacks Children’s expertise in specialty pediatric care.

Children’s, at 111 Michigan Avenue NW in the District, is the only hospital in the Mid-Atlantic offering children-only care. It already operates regional outpatient centers and specialty locations outside of the District, but has more facilities in suburban Maryland than Northern Virginia. Dr. Kurt D. Newman became Children’s chief executive in September,

The two hospitals are discussing ways for Children’s to expand the pediatric services that Inova currently offers, according to a source at Children’s who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the talks. “Inova is very short-staffed and they don’t have enough people to cover the demand” for pediatric services, the source said.

Children’s executives frequently discuss partnerships with other hospitals and health providers, said Paula Darte, director of public relations for Children’s. In a statement, she said the hospitals were “exploring opportunities in light of changes in a dynamic health care market place.”

“There are preliminary conversations about collaborative ways to provide specialty pediatric care to better serve families in Northern Virginia, as well as shared opportunities in research and education,” Darte said in her statement. “Each organization has a presence in Northern Virginia, so it is natural that colleagues who frequently work together would explore various opportunities that are mutually beneficial.”

Could a collaboration set the stage for a merger in the future? Tony Raker, a spokesman for Inova, confirmed the discussions about pediatric care in an e-mail, but both he and Darte said the organizations were not considering a merger.

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