In an effort to keep pace with Anne Arundel County's growing population, the area's two hospitals are planning multimillion-dollar expansions that will take several years and add services and space.
Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie will begin construction on its $112 million project early next year behind the medical center's main parking garage.
The expansion will include a six-story patient tower, a women's health center with obstetrics services and an expanded emergency room.
"When you think about this organization, I think it has a tremendous future ahead of it," said James Walker, president and chief executive officer of what was formerly known as North Arundel Hospital. "Anne Arundel County is such a dynamic place, and we are very excited about the chance to bring obstetrics to Baltimore Washington Medical Center."
Near Annapolis, Anne Arundel Medical Center is planning a nine-story expansion that will add 50 beds and eight operating rooms, expand emergency and radiology services, and include parking facilities. Construction on the $200 million expansion could begin in the fall of 2007 next to the Acute Care Pavilion. Administrators hope to finish the expansion by 2010.
"We're very excited to be able to move into the next phase of our growth and expansion for the folks we serve," said Martin L. Doordan, president of Anne Arundel Health System, which includes Anne Arundel Medical Center.
"It's just time, and we're ready and we have the permissions, so we're full speed ahead," he added.
Both expansion plans were approved last month by the Maryland Health Care Commission, a state regulatory body appointed by the governor that monitors proposed expansions at facilities around the state. Both hospitals went through some haggling with the commission over expansion plans, both noting growth in the county as a principal reason for the projects, including major expansions at Fort Meade and the National Security Agency.
Northern Anne Arundel County is also served by Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, just over the county line.
Officials from Harbor Hospital objected at the commission hearing Nov. 22, saying a new obstetrics program could cut births at Harbor by as much as 20 percent.
Baltimore Washington Medical Center officials said their proposed service would not adversely affect births at Harbor and would improve care for low-income families in the area.
In early 2004, two years after Anne Arundel Medical Center had moved from downtown Annapolis to a new medical park near Annapolis Mall, the hospital was bursting at the seams. Patient volume in the emergency room increased from 59,000 visits annually to 70,000 during that time, inpatient admissions went up from 19,000 to 23,000, and the hospital ranked second in the state in births, with more than 5,200 in 2004.
As part of its growth plan, the hospital will expand services for women and children, cancer treatment and several surgical specialties at its 260-bed facility.
"The region that we serve has continued to grow," Doordan said. "We just celebrated the move of our main acute-care facilities last week. It's been four years. We've just outgrown them."
Baltimore Washington Medical Center has had similar problems, including the busiest emergency room in the state in 2004, with nearly 85,000 visits a year, Walker said.
The hospital also delivered almost 30 babies in the emergency room that year and sent other women to nearby hospitals because it had no obstetrics program.
The project will expand emergency room capacity to 125,000 patients a year, adding 57 beds to the 272-bed hospital and opening a satellite of the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Fetal Care.
Said Walker: "This expansion is sorely needed for this part of the county, and we are extremely excited about that."