Bills would force simultaneous hospital review
Upcounty legislators say Holy Cross and Adventist proposals should be considered at the same time
Two upcounty legislators are seeking to even what they see as unfair competition between Adventist HealthCare and Holy Cross Hospital over proposals for hospitals in Clarksburg and Germantown.
State Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Dist. 39) and Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-Dist. 39) are preparing legislation that would create a side-by-side review for the proposals. Holy Cross announced its plans for a 93-bed hospital on the Germantown campus of Montgomery College in August while Adventist first proposed its 100-bed hospital and related facilities in Clarksburg in 2001.
The proposals require approval by the Maryland Health Care Commission, which is now considering the Holy Cross plan. Agency rules require Adventist to wait for the commission to finish reviewing the Holy Cross project before filing an application, which may only be filed in the spring and fall.
Adventist officials, who support the King-Barkley bill, warn that approval of the Holy Cross project will hurt the 24-hour emergency center they opened in Germantown in 2006 and undermine Shady Grove Hospital in Gaithersburg.
"If they put a hospital that close to the emergency center, they'll put it out of business," King said.
The hospital commission began formally considering the Holy Cross project Friday. It typically takes four months to make a decision, said Pam Barclay, director of the center for hospital services at the commission.
Robert Jepson, vice president of government relations and public policy with Adventist, said there is still time for the legislature to intervene.
"Obviously the review has started, but it hasn't gotten very far down the path," Jepson said. "The bill would essentially stop the review and consider all other alternatives in the review."
King and Barkley plan to introduce the bills this week. Both said the commission should weigh the proposals together to ensure they receive the fullest discussion and equal consideration.
"We're just trying to make sure both hospitals get fair treatment," Barkley said. "If there were even more hospitals involved, they should consider all of them at the same time."
In an e-mail to The Gazette on Tuesday, Yolanda Gaskins, a spokeswoman for Holy Cross, said the hospital has complied with all requirements in the state approval process. "We will continue to comply with the commission's requirements and look forward to successful completion of the process in accord with those requirements," she wrote.
The hospital's plans have been touted by MC-Germantown administrators as a major boost to their efforts to make the campus a center of education, research and economic development in the biosciences.
College spokeswoman Elizabeth Homan was non-committal Monday on the legislative proposal.
"Montgomery College has not yet seen the legislation proposed by Sen. King," Homan said. "We have good working relationships with both hospitals and we plan to continue those relationships into the future. With the Holy Cross Hospital project on the Germantown Campus, Montgomery College is excited about the opportunities it presents for our students."
Holy Cross and Adventist have been at odds over the future of health care facilities in the upcounty since Holy Cross unveiled its plans last summer, taking even county planners by surprise. Adventist officials argue that they have painstakingly adhered to county land use, traffic and environmental regulations only to have Holy Cross muddy their plans by its unexpected announcement of a competing project.
Jepson said his organization has labored to earn public support and obtain county permits. He said Adventist is ready "at some point this year" to apply for a certificate of need from the hospital commission. In the meantime, Adventist is preparing to present detailed evidence to the commission about how its emergency center would be harmed by a competing hospital with an emergency room a mile away.
"It's very clear there will be a negative impact on the emergency center and there will be information that speaks to that," Jepson said.
Barclay said the commission is taking written comments on the Holy Cross application. Comments should be limited to standards and issues contained in the state's health plan. She said a copy of the plan can be obtained by calling her at 410-764-5982. Comments are due by March 2 and can be mailed to the Maryland Health Care Commission, 4160 Patterson Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215.