DoD medical facility in Stafford one step closer to reality

Free Lance-Star

A flagship medical facility that would serve the area’s burgeoning military population on Stafford Hospital’s east campus in as little as one year moved a step closer to reality Tuesday night.

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors gave the project a green light in a unanimous vote that followed a more than two-hour public hearing. The approval clears the way for federal contractor CRAssociates to begin work on the 110,000-square-foot health care center as soon as the Department of Defense awards the company a contract to build and operate it.

Representatives of CRAssociates, one of the largest providers of health care services to the Department of Veterans Affairs, told supervisors Tuesday night that it hopes to get news of the award any day.

Once that happens, it will have just 10 months to complete construction. The clinic would have to be operational within a year. For that reason, supervisors on Tuesday held a rare joint public hearing with Planning Commissioners to fast-track what is usually a much longer county approval process.

The outpatient facility would serve as many as 1,000 active duty and retired military and their families a day. It is not a Veterans Affairs hospital, according to a list of frequently asked questions provided by the county in advance of the meeting. There would be no overnight stays and no major surgeries performed at the facility. Any patient with an emergency would be immediately transferred to Stafford Hospital.

Patients would see primary care doctors at the facility. They could also access a women’s health suite as well as mammography, orthopedic, dermatology, optometry and behavior health services. Other plans call for physical and occupational therapy, including an in-ground pool for wounded service members.

CRAssociates first eyed the Stafford Hospital campus in large part because of its location. Some 55,000 eligible patients—anyone using Tricare—live nearby. Two-thirds of them live within the county.

For now, most of those face long drives to Richmond, Fort Belvoir and beyond for even basic health needs. A Stafford facility would cut out the need for many of those trips.

Myra Guido, the wife of a retired Army veteran who lives in Stafford, told supervisors how she gets a hotel room near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center a day before her appointments just to make sure she arrives on time because traffic is so unreliable. She said she’s also picked up people headed to the Pentagon in order to drive in the HOV lanes. Once at the Pentagon, she said, she takes the Metro to Bethesda, Md.

“If you’re 15 minutes late, you have to reschedule,” Guido said.

Other military members told similar stories of having to take their children out of school for a day for something as routine as a dermatology appointment.

Guido, along with most speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing, urged supervisors to sign off on the project.

Bridgette and Byron Crosby, who live near Stafford Hospital, both expressed concern about the impact of construction as well as the increased traffic after it opens. Both are veterans.

“It takes me 20 minutes to get out of my driveway right now,” Bridgette Crosby said. “I would love a veteran’s facility in my area, but I would also like to be able to get out of my driveway.”

But county staff, as well as supervisors, said the site where the facility will go if the contract is awarded was already approved for almost 160,000 square feet of medical office space and several thousand feet of retail space based on a 2006 traffic study.

In other words, something will eventually be built there, anyway. The health care clinic is likely to have less impact than retail space because there are no peak hours—appointments are scheduled throughout the day, county officials said.

If CRA wins the defense contract to build the center, it would lease the land and the facility from Mary Washington Healthcare for at least 30 years.

Kristin Davis: 540/374-5403

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