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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Does HCA’s shadow affect Mary Washington?

Hap Connors, left, Margaret Lewis, president of HCA Capital Division, and Chris Yakabouski, former county supervisor, toast the new Spotsylvania hospital in a 2007 photo.

At this week’s public hearing for the new Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, Hap Connors repeated an often-heard thought: that competition between the new hospital and Mary Washington Hospital will be good for everyone. The idea is that patients will benefit when workers at the two hospitals hustle harder to get and keep your business. 

But Connors, a member of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, took the notion one step further. He said that the arrival of HCA, the parent company of the new hospital, has already changed Mary Washington. Spotsylvania won’t be open for three months, yet it’s already pushed Mary Washington to add services, he said.

Or as Connors put it, “We appreciate the attention MediCorp has given us. But it would not have occurred without HCA.”

If you look at Mary Washington’s recent multimillion dollar expansion program, it’s easy to draw that conclusion. Since 2006, when HCA announced that it wanted to build a hospital in Spotsylvania, Mary Washington has built or is planning a new hospital of its own, a freestanding emergency room, a trauma service, four urgent care centers and a new cancer center.

Ask Mary Washington about it, however, and they’ll remind you that correlation is not causation.

“All of the projects you mention are long-term commitments to the community and were made prior to 2006,” said Kathleen Allenbaugh, spokeswoman, in an e-mail this morning.

Allenbaugh said that the projects were inspired by the region’s dramatic growth and were years in the making.  “One cannot look at the COPN process or our public announcements of new services as the beginning of planning,” she said. “In some aspects, it is the end of the planning cycle. We begin to plan in advance of when there is a critical need.”

Update: I had called Connors to ask him about his comments at the hearing, and he returned the call this afternoon. Told about Mary Washington’s response that its actions were long-planned and in reaction to the community’s need, he said, “I don’t doubt they would say that. I would probably say the same thing. God bless them. We love the service. We love the newfound attention, but I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/rapidassessment/2010/03/17/did-hcas-shadow-affect-mary-washingtons-decisions/

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