Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Board OKs site plan for hospital - Gazette

Washington Adventist official will now apply with state to open facility in 2013

by Robert Dongu | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

The Montgomery County Planning Board last week unanimously approved the site plan of the new Washington Adventist Hospital, the last county approval needed to move the hospital from Takoma Park to the Calverton/White Oak area.

The 48-acre campus would provide emergency services, a healing space and a faith center in a wooded setting. Hospital officials estimate that the facility, to be located off Plum Orchard Drive near Cherry Hill Road and Route 29, will have 294 hospital beds and could be completed in 2013, pending state approval.

While the site will have the same number of hospital beds as the century-old Takoma Park campus, it will have all private rooms, according to an Adventist HealthCare press release. The Takoma Park campus will continue to be operated by Adventist HealthCare.

Stuart Rochester, chairman of the Fairland Master Plan Committee, commended Adventist HealthCare for its outreach to residents.

"The hospital has been very good in getting in touch with the community," said Rochester, who added that the new hospital could help with the "renaissance" of Route 29. The surrounding area is home to the Food and Drug Administration's White Oak complex.

At the hearing Thursday, Washington Adventist Hospital President Jere Stocks and a team of hospital officials, attorneys and architects emphasized the accessibility of the new campus calling it an easier trip for ambulance drivers on Route 29, as vehicles would travel in the opposite direction of the more congested Takoma Park campus to the south.

"We [want] to provide the whole array of inpatient-outpatient services on this campus that are required by a modern-day health care facility," Stocks said. "We want to do that in a very functional and efficient manner."

In addition to providing patients with more space, private rooms will serve a health purpose as well. "It helps to better control infection," Stocks said.

The new facility will also be bus-friendly and provide easier access for employees using public transportation, hospital officials said. They added it will provide day care services for 40 to 60 children from the moment the hospital opens, a number that they expect to see grow.

Public transportation will not be too far for employees or visitors, said Geoffrey Morgan, vice president for expanded access for the Rockville-based Adventist HealthCare.

"There's a bus pull-off area that we've committed to just to the south of the site" he said.

"We want buses to come and drop people off so they can use buses," said Planning Board Commissioner Jean Cryor. "That's one of the things that we care about a lot.… It's essential to [the project]"

Planning Board officials expressed approval of Adventist's approach toward the new hospital.

"It looks to me like you've done a very good job from an architecture and landscaping and site plan perspective," Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson said.

Board member Joe Alfandre questioned the group about ambulances that would remain on Route 29, even with the new location.

"Those ambulances would be traveling a more direct route to Cherry Hill and the new facility," Morgan responded.

Although Rochester said traffic to the hospital will likely bring more congestion along Route 29, he doubted there would be gridlock. The challenge, he said, is not to cave into pressure to develop the area along the road near the hospital. While Rochester praised the jobs the hospital would bring, he cautioned about overdevelopment.

"We have to settle for not adding density. … It's a tricky situation," Rochester said.

The next step for hospital officials is to write a letter of intent to the state in February, according to Adventist HealthCare spokesman Tom Grant. A more comprehensive certificate of need will be filed in April.

"What we are going to show [the state] is that we've worked with the county and the community," Grant said.

Some buildings from the 13-acre Takoma Park campus will be demolished and renovated to construct a Village of Health and Well-being, which will have emergency or urgent care, an uninsured and low-income clinic, a gym, and other facilities.

The board's decision comes the same week Adventist released a statement detailing its plans to develop a campus and hospital in Clarksburg.

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