Washington Adventist Hospital has received long-sought state approval to relocate to a $331 million facility that will be constructed in White Oak, Maryland, just down the road from the Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters.
The Maryland Health Care Commission granted formal approval on Dec. 17 for the Adventist HealthCare-owned hospital to develop the 170-bed acute-care facility and medical campus on a 48-acre (19.5-hectare) wooded area at Plum Orchard Drive and Cherry Hill Road.
Construction is to begin next month on the hospital, which will largely replace an aging facility that opened in 1907 in Takoma Park, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) to the south. The new hospital is slated to open in early 2019.
“I know God has been guiding us along this journey and many of us prayed each day to him to give us strength during this process,” Terry Forde, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, told the Adventist Review on Friday. “We are also blessed to be standing on the shoulders of previous Adventist leaders who had the vision to come to the Washington, D.C. area in 1907. We are honored and humbled to continue their mission.”
Washington Adventist Hospital officials said the Takoma Park hospital was too cramped for expansion and lacked sufficient parking, prompting them to look for a new site.
But Maryland authorities turned down proposals to build a new hospital in Clarksburg in 2011 and to relocate to White Oak with a 249-bed facility in 2012. In 2011, authorities instead authorized Roman Catholic-affiliated Holy Cross Hospital to construct a competing hospital in Germantown.
Washington Adventist Hospital president Erik Wangsness called the application process “long and laborious” but said it also meant that the hospital was able to receive all county approvals, allowing construction to begin quickly now, the Washington Business Journal reported.
“This allows us to replace an aging building — a structure that, depending on which part of the building you're talking about, was built between 1950 and 1980 — and was suboptimal for modern health care,” Wangsness told the newspaper.
Under the approved plan, Washington Adventist Hospital will keep several services at the Takoma Park campus, including a 39-bed psychiatric unit, 40 inpatient behavioral health beds, and inpatient rehabilitation.
Some of the vacated space is expected to be leased to Takoma Park-based Washington Adventist University.
The Maryland Health Care Commission approved the relocation plan on Thursday after Frances Phillips, a member of the commission who led the review of the hospital’s Certificate of Need application, gave her backing last month.
“I conclude that, from a broad healthcare delivery system perspective, [Washington Adventist] plays a very important role in providing services to the residents of southeastern Montgomery County and western and northern portions of Prince George’s County,” Phillips wrote in her recommendation. “Its current operation in an outdated physical plant … makes its future survival and ability to perform well dependent on its relocation and replacement. I find that the … healthcare delivery system and the population in [Washington Adventist’s] service area will benefit from having a modern hospital that can thrive and better serve the region.”
The hospital used to be located in the heart of a Seventh-day Adventist community when the Adventist world headquarters was based in Takoma Park from 1904 to 1989. With the move, the new hospital campus will be located about half a mile (1 kilometer) east of the headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
But the hospital appeared to be more concerned about meeting the general community’s needs than its proximity to the church headquarters.
“This project means the region will have a thriving new hospital in White Oak, while also having access to key population health services in Takoma Park,” Wangsness said in an e-mailed statement. “I want to thank the commission for approving our plan. I also want to thank the hospital employees, physicians, and numerous community supporters who have worked with us to expand access to care.”