Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hospital unveils ‘Village' concept - Gazette

Washington Adventist's Takoma Park campus to have health, well-being facilities

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008

Washington Adventist Hospital plans to demolish some buildings on its Takoma Park campus and renovate others to construct a Village of Health and Well-being that will include a fitness center, emergency care unit and college-level health education facilities when the hospital moves to its new location in Calverton/White Oak.

Washington Adventist officials unveiled designs Monday for the 14-acre campus at 7600 Carroll Ave. that will provide complementary services for the planned 48-acre Calverton/White Oak campus Adventist HealthCare hopes to open in 2013.

"This may be a national model of how to create something the community benefits from using different resources," said William G. Robertson, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, which runs Washington Adventist.

Plans for the Takoma Park campus were formed after hospital officials conducted interviews with 200 Takoma Park residents over 18 months. Some of those residents were on hand during Monday's press conference and many praised the designs as reflective of community needs.

"The general person on the street will have a positive reaction," said Howard Kohn, a Takoma Park resident and community activist who was interviewed by hospital officials. "This is a good solution as opposed to selling off the buildings and putting up apartments."

Plans include a 24-hour emergency health care facility similar to the Shady Grove Adventist Emergency Center in Germantown, pending state regulatory approval. Existing rehabilitation services will remain and expand to include more outpatient services including sports medicine and physical therapy.

Part of the main hospital building will be demolished, as will a conference building and office space at the Lisner building, which was built in the 1940s.

The most imminent feature is a fitness and wellness center that would include a new gymnasium, a swimming pool, racquetball courts, cardiac and weight machines and offices. That facility is expected to open by the end of 2011, Robertson said.

The fitness center will be open to physical therapy needs as well as general use from the community and students of nearby Columbia Union College.

In addition to the use of the fitness center, Adventist will partner with CUC to provide new services and facilities for the college's School of Health Professions, Sciences and Wellness, which was initiated in March.

Health and wellness classes would be conducted in classrooms at the fitness center and clinical space for aspiring health care professionals will be included in the current main hospital building. Those plans cannot be finished until Adventist relocates to Calverton/White Oak in 2013 because it would affect the number of hospital beds available, Robertson said.

CUC President Weymouth Spence said the partnership will allow the college to become a leader in health care education in the region by offering services and access that other institutions cannot.

"Health care is a high-profile industry and there is a national shortage of nurses," Spence said. "This is also a marketing strategy for when students select colleges."

The education programs and facilities will be open to other institutions in the area as well, providing a regional destination for health care students, said Washington Adventist President Jere Stocks.

"We understand that working together, we can have an impact on training health care professionals," he said. "CUC is our neighbor but I would expect other education partnerships to emerge."

Other planned features presented Monday included a Lifestyle Center set to open after 2013 that will provide health services including weight loss programs, smoking cessation programs and exercise classes, Robertson said. A dialysis center is also planned to fill a "huge need" in the community, he said.

Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams said the vision for the new campus matches the city's vision but acknowledged the project plans were still in a broad stage.

"Vision is the place you have to start, and I think it's a great vision," he said Monday night at a City Council meeting. "It's a win-win as far as the community is concerned."

Robertson said Adventist has considered other features including a restaurant overlooking Sligo Creek, space for several clinical-trial beds used to test medication, office space for nonprofit organizations, senior health services and programs to match immigrants with health care jobs.

He said the campus has the capacity for those services but the hospital was still working out many of the details for the Takoma Park campus and would be enlisting input from the community.

Seth Grimes, a Takoma Park activist and former mayoral candidate, has long voiced concerns over Adventist's move. Due to traffic along the six-mile route between Takoma Park and the planned relocation site, Adventist "will no longer be the hospital of choice in Takoma Park," Grimes said.

Grimes said plans for the new campus "are good for what they are" because they drew from community ideas, but he was unsure what was presented Monday will be reality in 2013.

"We are in a situation where change is constant around the county and health care needs are evolving," said Grimes, who was not at Monday's presentation but has seen the plans. "I guarantee [the plans] will change from now and five years from now in ways the community likes and ways they don't like."

For two years Grimes was on Takoma Park's Health Services Impact Committee, formed to assess the general health care needs of the city shortly after Adventist announced its plans for a new campus in 2005. In November, the committee will complete a draft report of the community's health care needs, said Drew Sommers, co-chair of the committee. The report will be submitted to Takoma Park City Council, Adventist Hospital and the public.

"I think it's a very bold and creative proposal," said Trevor Delafield, a member of the committee who attend Monday's presentation. "… They are allowing themselves room as needs and developments unfold."

Takoma Park appointed a 14-member committee, including mostly citizens and an ex officio member from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, to discuss the use of the current campus and meet with Adventist. The committee will hold its first meeting in the coming weeks.

Takoma Park City Councilman Councilman Reuben Snipper (Ward 5) said the community must remain involved with the plans, both to help Adventist gain state approval for the emergency care unit and to make sure traffic problems around the campus do not worsen.

"I'm encouraged," Snipper said of Adventist's relationship with the community. "They haven't worked as collegially with the community in the past and they have learned that lesson."

Staff Writer Jeremy Arias contributed to this report.

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