TAKOMA PARK — City officials were caught off guard after Washington Adventist Hospital officials relayed their intention on Tuesday, to potentially close critical medical facilities in the city.
“The City Council is stunned and dismayed to hear of this decision,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. “Losing the behavioral health facility is a great concern because of its use for the police.”
The hospital’s vice president Robert Jepson informed Stewart they intend to seek permission from the state to close the psychiatric, inpatient behavioral health, and inpatient rehabilitation units once the hospital moves to a newly-planned 48-acre site in White Oak, city manager Suzanne Ludlow said.
It is likely that the three units would be merged with the planned White Oak site or the existing campus in Shady Grove.
The decision follows a December 2015 relocation announcement while keeping the psychiatric, inpatient behavioral health, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities at its current 19-acre campus in the city.
Washington Adventist Hospital and its parent company, Adventist HealthCare, will need approval from the Maryland Health Care Commission through the Certificate of Need program to relocate the three units.
Ludlow said the decision came without prior warning despite “regular meetings” on a monthly basis with the hospital’s leadership.
“Our understanding was at the time of the Certificate of Need application was approved in 2015 was that the hospital would leave a number of different facilities on the property,” she said.
Ludlow added the current campus, located on Carroll Avenue in Ward 5, has special permission to operate a hospital on land originally zoned for single-family residential homes.
“One of the things we’ve raised all along is that any other use would need to go through some kind of zoning action,” she said. “If it were to be used for single-family homes, obviously the building would need to be demolished and the property would need to be subdivided into single-family home lots.”
Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul said the departure of the psychiatric and behavioral health facilities could negatively impact law enforcement in the city.
“A lot of these patients are dangerous to themselves and others and the quicker we can get them into the security of a mental health unit the better it is for the public and the police,” DeVaul said. “Having to transport a mental health patient all the way from Takoma Park to Rockville poses a potential risk for violence not only for the involved patient for the officers transporting the patient.”
DeVaul explained that longer transport routes to could force the city to purchase additional vehicles.
“In addition, there’s going to be increased transportation time which will require a larger financial commitment by the city to purchase appropriate transport vehicles,” he added.
A representative for Adventist HealthCare, Lydia Parris, said Jepson was not available to comment for this story, but in a written statement, said the hospital was exploring opportunities to for the Takoma Park campus.
“The Takoma Park plans were developed in the years leading up to approval for the new White Oak location in December 2015, and much has changed in the state since then,” Parris wrote. “As Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center campus prepares for its summer 2019 opening, we have been studying the future services on our Takoma Park campus.”
"We remain committed to opening a 24-hour urgent care center in Takoma Park, as required by the state's Certificate of Need (CON) approval," she added. “We continue to study opportunities for the remaining Takoma Park campus.”
Note: this story was updated to reflect Adventist HealthCare's intention to open a 24-hour urgent care center at their Takoma Park campus.