Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Hospital’s board chairman disputes commentary

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As the voluntary chairman of the board of Suburban Hospital, I feel compelled to address some of the misrepresentations in Lorraine Driscoll’s commentary (‘‘Suburban has room to expand without gutting community,” Aug. 22).

Ms. Driscoll’s commentary was in reaction to The Gazette’s Aug. 8 editorial (‘‘Easing Suburban Hospital’s growing pains”), which supported the hospital’s expansion.

First, the Huntington Terrace Citizens’ Association has not ‘‘welcomed” the hospital for six decades. The 1998 edition of its community directory states, ‘‘HTCA was ... reactivated in the 1940s to limit the incursion of Suburban Hospital into the neighborhood.” The truth is that HTCA has fought just about every minor and major modification that the hospital has proposed for the past six decades and continues to oppose changes as simple and as important as bringing fresh airflow into our surgical suites for our surgeons and patients.

Second, Ms. Driscoll claims that ‘‘Suburban has not reached out to its neighbors.” In the past two years alone, Suburban has reached out to our neighbors in a number of ways that include: 17 meetings with individual homeowners; two well attended presentations held in the hospital auditorium; nine meetings with HTCA board members; and 11 meetings of the Community Panel for a Healthy Future, comprising eight neighborhood associations and other stakeholders.

Regrettably, the HTCA board chose to abandon the community panel after just a few meetings, leaving the neighborhood that they represent without a voice.

Suburban has gone above and beyond to create open lines of communication with the Huntington Terrace board, only to be shut out and then accused of not being open or willing to listen.

Suburban Hospital’s expansion is about patient care. As chairman of the board, I take seriously my obligation to look out for the best interests of the millions of people served by our not-for-profit hospital. We are grateful to the 5,000 area residents who have already pledged their support of our expansion and welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with our neighbors at any time.

Barry K. Rogstad, Bethesda

The writer is chairman of the board of Suburban Hospital.