May 8, 2010

Hospitals duel in Montgomery County

Business groups are divided in the contentious battle between two nonprofits vying to build a hospital in the rapidly growing northern part of Montgomery County. One group of 19 business and community leaders signed a joint letter to state officials supporting Adventist HealthCare's proposal to build the Clarksburg Community Hospital and Medical Campus in Clarksburg.

"We believe this is the superior proposal for a new hospital in Montgomery County," the group wrote.

But the former president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, James A. Hyatt, says his organization should be supporting Holy Cross Hospital's plan for a new hospital in Germantown, but isn't because the chamber's chairman is Robert Jepson, Adventist's associate vice president for government relations.

"Residents of Clarksburg have the advantage right now — Adventist has rallied their chamber of commerce and other civic groups to voice their support for the Clarksburg hospital," said Hyatt, who supports the Holy Cross proposal, about five miles away from the planned Adventist hospital. "For those of us in Germantown, we cannot expect to get support from our own chamber of commerce."

The dueling business support reflects how the two organizations are trying to rally community backing as they seek state approval for their multimillion-dollar proposals — only one of which will win that approval. Both church-affiliated applicants took their campaigns public in August in an effort to win backing, from setting up Facebook pages to passing out fliers at local events. A reviewer for the Maryland Health Care Commission, which will award the certificate needed to open the county's first new, full-service hospital in 30 years, is scheduled to meet with the applicants — Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring and Adventist HealthCare of Rockville — on May 20 to set a hearing date on the proposals.

A decision, which earlier had been expected this summer, may not be made until the fall, said Pamela Barclay, director of the commission's Center for Hospital Services. SOURCE: Gazette

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