Hospital Considers Leaving Fewer Health Facilities in Takoma Park
The Takoma Park City Council is stunned and dismayed to learn from Washington Adventist Hospital officials that they are seeking permission from the State to move several key health facilities out of the City that they had pledged would remain on the Takoma Park campus once the acute care hospital moves to its new campus in the White Oak area of Montgomery County in the summer of 2019.
Washington Adventist Hospital officials informed the Mayor and City Council that the hospital has been evaluating the relocation of the inpatient psychiatric hospital and inpatient physical rehabilitation hospital units. This information was shared at a meeting with Mr. Robert Jepson, the Hospital’s Vice President for Business Development, and the Takoma Park City Council and City Manager on January 22 and confirmed by the Adventist Health Care President Terry Forde to Mayor Stewart on January 23rd.
Mayor Stewart noted that, “In the two years since the Certificate of Need was approved, City staff and my colleagues on the Council met regularly with Washington Adventist Hospital officials to discuss plans for the health campus to be left in Takoma Park. We have lobbied for additional investments in the campus to bolster its financial feasibility, and we jointly were pursuing a feasibility study for an aquatics facility that might be added to the campus. We had no indication that consideration was being given by the hospital to not providing these health services described in the Certificate of Need application.”
If the move is permitted, “Behavioral Health,” the inpatient psychiatric hospital, would likely be merged into the Behavioral Health facility in Rockville, adjacent to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, and the Rehabilitation Hospital would move to or near the Washington Adventist Hospital White Oak campus currently under construction. At this point, it is not clear to the City what State or County approvals are needed to permit such moves.
Loss of the Behavioral Health unit from Takoma Park is of great concern to City officials and police agencies in and near Takoma Park. More than a dozen police agencies in the area transport persons having mental health crises to the Takoma Park facility. At times, these patients are violent or difficult to control, so a long transport to Rockville from Takoma Park, or from nearby Prince George’s County or Silver Spring, increases the possibility of injury and stress for the patients, families and police officers.
Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul expressed his deep concern about the possible move of the Behavioral Health unit from Takoma Park. “Requiring transport of persons having a mental health emergency to Rockville is a step in the opposite direction of best practices for community mental health care. The change in location will be a significant hardship on our Department, putting officers, patients and the public at greater risk. In addition, the increased transportation time will likely require a larger financial commitment by the City for personnel and appropriate transport vehicles.”
If the behavioral and rehabilitation units are moved, it is likely that the supporting laboratory and radiology services would also be discontinued. These services were to be available for outpatient use in Takoma Park under the concept of a health campus that was outlined in the Certificate of Need application that, when approved, allowed Washington Adventist Hospital to begin constructing the White Oak campus.
The remaining elements of the health campus were to include a 24-hour urgent care center, a clinic operated by Community Clinic, Inc. (an entity separate from Washington Adventist Hospital), and a prenatal clinic serving women without health insurance. The urgent care center is specifically required to stay in Takoma Park as a condition of the Certificate of Need approval and hospital officials reported that they are currently planning for the urgent care center on the campus. Given what may be left on the campus, it is not clear if the community clinic or the prenatal clinic will stay at the site.
City officials also learned at the January 22 meeting that a financial feasibility study commissioned by the hospital shows that a Freestanding Medical Facility would not be affordable for the hospital, and therefore, the hospital will not pursue a stand-alone emergency facility.
The zoning of the hospital property in Takoma Park is R-60, single-family residential. The Washington Adventist Hospital was allowed to use the site via a Special Exception. Without a hospital on site, a zoning change would be required for almost any use other than single family residential development.
In December 2015, in a media statement issued when the Certificate of Need was approved, President Wangsness stated: “Washington Adventist Hospital will continue to be an integral part of the Takoma Park community as it has for 108 years. When the acute hospital services relocate to White Oak in 2019, we will still provide a robust array of health services on our Takoma Park campus, including a 24-hour urgent care center, behavioral health services, physical rehabilitation services, a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center operated in conjunction with Community Clinic Incorporated, and Women’s Health Center. We will work closely with the City in identifying possible other services and facilities that will create a vibrant community health campus in this location.”
In response to the news delivered by the hospital this week, City Manager Suzanne Ludlow stated, “The fears that Takoma Park have had since the hospital first announced its plan to move, may now be coming to pass: no acute care hospital, the loss of the City’s major employer, no health facilities left on the Takoma Park campus for our community, and potentially a vacant unattractive site left in the heart of our community.”
The Takoma Park City Council will continue to pursue information on the plans under consideration by Adventist HealthCare and Washington Adventist Hospital.
Stewart noted, “Takoma Park has many critical needs. We need health facilities to serve those in our community who cannot easily travel for their care. I want to assure the public that we will do everything we possibly can to ensure the property remains a valuable asset meeting the vital needs of the Takoma Park community.”
For more information about the Washington Adventist Hospital relocation, please visit the project page.
For questions or media inquires:
Jeremy Dickey, Media Specialist
301.891.7236 (office) or 202.870.9573 (mobile)