Three months after Anne Arundel Medical Center opened its medical park on Jennifer Road, another medical giant has announced plans for a 120,000-square-foot office complex in Shipley's Choice.
The University of Maryland Medical System plans to open July 1 a 30,000-square-foot, two-story office building for local physicians -- the first phase of the project -- at the southeast corner of Benfield Boulevard and Veterans Highway in Shipley's Choice.
The complex will be the eighth health care service center to be built in the county in the past two years.
"From a public health point of view, it's good," said Frances Phillips, county health officer. "You will be able to expand office hours and increase access to the physicians."
Dr. Robert Barish, director of the university's emergency medical service, has been involved in the project to bring the center to the county. He said the university decided to go ahead with the project after records at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore showed that about 7,500 of the hospital's 200,000 visits were by Anne Arundel County patients.
"We need to provide service to our patients by going to Shipley's Choice," Dr. Barish said. "We can't sit back here and wait for them to come to us. We have to go to them."
Other health care centers have done the same, extending their services in the suburbs.
* In September, Anne Arundel Medical Center opened the $28 million Rebecca M. Clatanoff Pavilion off Jennifer Road. The three-level, 114,000-square-foot building joins a 24,500-square-foot ambulatory surgery center and a 38,700-square-foot oncology treatment center completed six years ago.
* North Arundel Hospital's nighttime pediatric center in Festival Plaza on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena opened in January. In November 1994, North Arundel opened a two-story, $1.1 million laboratory and X-ray facility.
* The 3,000-square-foot Odenton Community Medical Center opened in October 1993 in a small strip mall at Academy Junction near state Route 175 and Piney Orchard Parkway.
* The Women's Health First center, a 6,500-square-foot complex, opened in July in the Valu Food shopping center on Ritchie Highway near Robinson Road.
Also planned is Harbor Hospital's 44,000-square-foot ambulatory center in the Festival Plaza off Ritchie Highway in Pasadena, perhaps as soon as February.
And officials of two of the country's largest health care delivery systems, Helix and Medlantic Healthcare Group, said they are considering moving into the county and have talked with officials from Anne Arundel Medical Center and North Arundel Hospital.
Jonathan Weiner, a professor of health policy and management for the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene, noted the positive and negative effects of the University of Maryland's presence in the county.
"Potentially, it might lead to greater competition and lessen the patient base for existing facilities in the county," Mr. Weiner said. "But I think the net result will be better access, and it could decrease cost."
Mary Lou Baker, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel Health System, which operates Anne Arundel Medical Center, did not view the proposed office complex as detrimental to the region.
"The doctors are simply making it more convenient for patients to see them in their offices," Ms. Baker said.
"I don't see it as having a negative impact."
Half of the planned complexes would be occupied by primary-care doctors. The other half would be split between diagnostic experts and specialists.
The University of Maryland is also considering adding three more office buildings of the same size, which would boost its total space to 120,000 square feet.
Dr. Barish said the office complex would help the university's teaching by giving medical students more patients to work with.
"We're hoping that our students can learn from local primary care physicians," he said.
The complex has been in the planning stages for the past five years. Because it will not provide surgical or emergency care, the center did not require a state needs assessment, said Dr. Barish.