by M.J. McAteer
Inova Health System, already the dominant provider of health services in Northern Virginia, plans to expand its presence in the region with a new “healthplex” in the heart of Loudoun County. The $31 million, 50,000-square-foot facility in Ashburn will include a 24-hour emergency room, a diagnostic imaging center and doctors’ offices but no in-patient beds.
The healthplex plan will require approval from the county and the state. Randy Kelley, CEO of Inova Loudoun Hospital, expects to submit plans to the county before the end of the year and then pursue a certificate of public need (COPN) from the state. Erik Bodin, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s COPN division, says that any medical facility costing more than about $17 million must be certified.
Kelley does not anticipate any regulatory roadblocks for the healthplex. He says its proposed location is in line with Loudoun’s health-care facilities plan that states all residents should be within 20 minutes of emergency services. Given how long approval processes can take, however, Kelley says it will be a few years before Inova will be “turning the lights on” at the new facility.
The healthplex would be situated in the same mid-county area where Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) wanted to build the 164-bed Broadlands Regional Medical Center a few years back, but the lights never went on at that project. In 2009, after years of controversy, the county board of supervisors refused for the second time to grant a zoning exception needed for the hospital to go forward.
HCA, which operates Reston Hospital Center, is Inova’s biggest competitor in the region, and Inova vigorously opposed a rival medical center being built just five miles from Loudoun Hospital in Lans-downe. News reports at the time pointed out that out of 87 requests for zoning exceptions that year, supervisors rejected only one, HCA’s hospital plan.
A year later, HCA had better luck gaining county approval for another 164-bed hospital, StoneSpring Medical Center, in the southern part of Loudoun near Route 50. Inova did not oppose plans for StoneSpring, which is scheduled to open in 2015.
Inova’s proposed healthplex, at a site near the intersection of the Dulles Greenway and Loudoun County Parkway, will be seven miles from the StoneSpring facility, or just two miles more distant than HCA’s proposed Broadlands hospital was from Loudoun Hospital. This development has not escaped HCA’s notice.
“Having fought so long and so aggressively to kill one hospital project in Broadlands, it’s puzzling and disconcerting that Inova now sees the need to build its own health-care facility just down the road from the Broadlands site,” says HCA spokesman Mark Foust.
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