Local urban development leaders and design experts are pushing for Prince George’s County and University of Maryland health care officials to consider areas surrounding the county’s 15 Metro stations for a proposed new regional health center.
About 50 people attended a Wednesday night forum in Lanham organized by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on promoting transit-oriented development in the Washington metropolitan region.
Cheryl Cort, policy director for the coalition, said her group wanted to ensure that the issue of where to locate the hospital was addressed early in the process, which began with the partnership between Prince George’s County and the University of Maryland Medical System and could lead to a new hospital as early as 2017.
“The question is, ‘How can we best serve the residents of Prince George’s County?’” said Cort of the District. “We need to ensure the facility is accessible to as many people as possible, while being competitive, on the cutting edge of design and establishing linkages with other leading institutions.”
Hugh Campbell, principal of Portland-based ZGF Architects, who has designed hospitals around the country, said that while the popular trend in the late 20th century was to place hospitals on an isolated suburban campus, people now want hospitals to be embedded in the community.
“Hospitals weren’t patient-focused, they were doctor-focused, but that’s changing,” Campbell said, referring to the college campus-style “one-stop shop” nature of some hospitals. “...Now more and more hospitals are doing things like offering bus service, and becoming part of the community rather than isolating themselves from it.”
Eric Fischer, managing director of the District-based developer Trammell Crow Company, said being close to public transportation will help attract better doctors and staff from throughout the region, thereby improving the hospital and perception of the hospital overall.
“You want to attract the best-in-class employees, and those people don’t necessarily all live in this community,” Fischer said. “And as the world gets more expensive and more congested, people will want the ability to rely on public transit.”
Carletta Fellows, 42, of Upper Marlboro, said the forum gave her a lot of insight into what needs to be considered when planning a new hospital. But she said she is concerned about the funding mechanism for such a project, because she fears the county could be saddled with too much debt.
“There’s definitely a need for various modes of transportation, and where ever we choose to put it, it should have various options,” Fellows said. “My concern is where is the money going to come from? We need to look at other hospitals and see how much [local governments] are getting from bonds and what kinds of public-private partnerships are being used.”
Camille Bash, chief financial officer for Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, said that the county already has too many hospital beds and that the county should focus on improving care at current hospitals and developing non-hospital care centers and clinics.
“We need to be reducing the number of hospital beds and increasing our outpatient options,” Bash said. “We should build up our current hospitals, not necessarily build new ones.”