Aging Baby Boomers Drive Hospital Growth – Aging Population Creates New Needs

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By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 10, 2008; Page C04

Over the past several years, all five of Montgomery’s major medical centers have decided to expand, upgrade their facilities or build ones. The changes sometimes pit hospitals against each other as they vie for patients. Holy Cross’s announcement has prompted Rockville-based Adventist HealthCare to urge greater regulatory scrutiny of its rival’s plans.

Medical centers in some nearby counties are also growing.

Howard County General Hospital broke ground in September on a $105 million expansion that will increase the number of beds from 219 to 261. Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, which has 29 medical centers in Maryland, the District and Virginia, plans to open a medical center in Fredericksburg early next year. In 2006, Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge opened a four-story, 180,000-square-foot patient care building that added 30 private rooms.
“You’re seeing this all over,” said Charlene Wilkins, spokeswoman for Potomac Hospital.

What’s happening locally mirrors a national trend, fueled by concerns that aging baby boomers will put new demands on the health-care system and that old hospital buildings can no longer accommodate changing and complex medical technologies, said Mary E. Stefl, chairwoman of Trinity University’s Department of Health Care Administration.

“It’s the most significant [hospital building boom] since after World War II,” said Rick Wade, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association.

According to an annual survey by Modern Healthcare magazine, 2007 was a banner year for hospital construction. Last year, 3,552 health-care construction projects were completed, compared with 3,441 the year before.

Amid the boom, however, D.C. area hospitals in less affluent areas have struggled to stay afloat. In the District, officials hope new ownership will prevent Greater Southeast Community Hospital from having to close. In Prince George’s County, state and county officials are working to keep the publicly owned Prince George’s Hospital Center open until a buyer can be found.

Although some say the economic downturn will slow the trend in more affluent areas, the boom continues in Montgomery. In addition to Holy Cross’s plans for a new hospital and renovations at its Silver Spring campus:
· Montgomery General Hospital in Olney will break ground in a few weeks on an addition that will double the size of its emergency room.

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