Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Campus is the Wrong Place for a Hospital

By Gene Counihan.

As a former trustee of Montgomery College (1998 until September 2009) as well as a current member of the Governing Board of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, I have followed with great interest and concern the Adventist HealthCare and Holy Cross Hospital proposals to develop a hospital in upper Montgomery County. Both institutions are longtime, responsible, and valued corporate members of our community. I am speaking out publicly now to express my conviction that locating any hospital on the Montgomery College Germantown campus property is not the right thing to do.

I come to that view independently of my affiliation with Shady Grove Hospital. I have tried to serve the interests of my fellow Montgomery County residents in many capacities over the past 45 years – 12 years as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, a longtime board member of Universities of Maryland at Shady Grove, founding member of the Committee for Montgomery, member and past president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, president emeritus of Olney Theatre Center and chairman of the Montgomery Village Foundation – as well as the previously noted board service at Montgomery College and Shady Grove Hospital. My experience also includes 29 years with Montgomery County Public Schools and more than a decade in government relations with WMATA (Metro). I currently serve as Chairman of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

All of these activities have given me a deep understanding of Montgomery County issues and how public policy is formed. I hope that they also show that I come to my views on this subject from a broad perspective and a sincere desire to promote neither the interests of Montgomery College nor of the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital but rather the interests of all who live in Montgomery County. My objections to locating a hospital on the Montgomery College Germantown property are summarized here:

1. The process that resulted in the agreement between the College and Holy Cross Hospital was initiated quietly, behind closed doors without the knowledge or participation of the College’s Board of Trustees or the community at large. The Montgomery College Foundation, the former President of the College, and the property’s developer (Foulger Pratt) privately worked out the tentative agreement with Holy Cross Hospital amongst themselves. Contrary to the way major public/private developments are undertaken in Montgomery County, other healthcare institutions, such as Adventist HealthCare, MedStar, amd Johns Hopkins, all of whom have a presence in the County, were not given the same opportunity to present competing bids and proposals for developing a hospital facility on College property in Germantown. There were no informational hearings for public comment, so no civic or other interested community members had the opportunity to express their opinions or have questions answered. The deal was simply announced after Holy Cross submitted a letter of intent to build a hospital on the campus to the Maryland Health Care Commission. This process was not in keeping with our tradition in Montgomery County of transparency and community involvement.

2. The site where the hospital is now proposed to be located (near the middle of the campus) was purchased with public funds to accommodate the future growth needs of the academic programs of the College, not for private development. The original site selected for a public/private partnership project was located on the edge of the campus along I-270. The present site should be retained to meet future college growth needs.

3. The argument that having a hospital in the center of the Germantown campus would benefit the College’s Nursing Program is weak. The College’s nursing program is located over 20 miles away on its Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. The County and State recently invested millions of dollars in building a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Building to support health care and nursing programs on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

4. The Germantown campus is not the right place for any new hospital. There is a nearly new Germantown Emergency Center located near the College campus. The center is operated by Adventist HealthCare as an adjunct to its Shady Grove Adventist Hospital emergency room. It doesn’t make sense to locate two emergency rooms almost next door to each other.

Gene Counihan, Montgomery Village, MD

Editor’s Note: Gene Counihan is a former member of the House of Delegates, a former President of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, is the former Maryland Government Relations Officer for WMATA and is the current Chair of WSSC.