About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Stafford and Spotsylvania Regional still waiting for patients to show up

Empty beds such as this one are a common sight at Stafford Hospital.

After visiting the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Fredericksburg last week, I couldn’t help but compare what’s happening there with what’s happening at the region’s other new hospitals.

HealthSouth opened in 2007 with 40 beds, a number that may have underestimated the community’s need. Donna Phillips, the CEO, said that HealthSouth has been full for about a year. It’s building a 12-bed addition which should be ready later this year.

Compare that to Stafford Hospital, which opened in 2009 with 100 beds, and Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, which opened in 2010 with 126 beds. The two hospitals were planned and built in one type of economy and opened in another. As a result, they have more beds than the community needs.

Both Stafford and Spotsylvania Regional feature whole floors of empty rooms. Hospital officials are sensitive about this, so exact patient counts are hard to come by. But it’s safe to say that each of the two hospitals has more unused beds than used ones. Add Mary Washington Hospital, and you have an overall vacancy rate for the region of about 40 percent.

The population of the area continues to grow, so the two hospitals will be busy someday. But when?  Five years? Ten years? In the meantime, $330 million in investments is not fully used.

(A blog post on this topic written two years ago can be seen here.)