Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

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Earlier this week, Fairfax Hospital celebrated its 50th anniversary of service to our community.

Speeches and a large cake were featured at the lunchtime celebration for current and former staff of the hospital. Honored at the ceremony were Drs. Mendel Bocknek and Nelson Tart, who were on the original medical staff when the hospital opened; Richard C. Foster, first associate Administrator; and nurse Mary G.A.Brown, the first director of obstetrics. News articles from the time indicate that the new facility actually opened about 30 minutes early, to accommodate a pregnant woman about to deliver. Nurse Brown said that the baby was a girl, named Patricia. At Monday’s celebration, Nurse Brown was handed a pair of golden scissors and re-enacted the ribbon cutting she had missed while tending her patients. A second baby was born at the hospital later that day, foreshadowing its status today as one of the largest labor and delivery units in the nation.

The original Fairfax Hospital was the culmination of a dream, and a lot of hard work, by a group of concerned Fairfax County residents who, in 1956, incorporated The Fairfax Hospital Association to fund, build, and operate a not-for-profit community hospital. In 1955, the citizens of Fairfax County had embraced the concept of a hospital, and voted overwhelming to approve the issuance of $3.5 million in General Obligation Bonds. That was a pretty big step into the unknown for Fairfax County, which boasted only 261,000 residents by the 1960 Census. That number was soon to change, however, as Fairfax County grew by 192,000 people, or almost 74 percent, by the 1970 Census.  When the hospital opened, the Beltway was not yet constructed, Tysons Corner was just a country crossroad, Skyline was still a general aviation airport, Dulles Airport wasn’t open yet, and John F. Kennedy had been president for a mere 17 days.

Fairfax Hospital was a partnership between the hospital association and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which holds title to the more than 30 acre site on Gallows Road in Falls Church. Federal Hill-Burton funds added another three million dollars to the $6.5 million construction cost for a five-story brick building with less than 200 beds. Three members of the Board of Supervisors hold positions on INOVA boards: Supervisors Mike Frey and Gerry Hyland are members of the Health Care Services Board. I represent Fairfax County on the INOVA Board of Trustees.

During the past 50 years, Fairfax Hospital has increased in size, scope, and services. In 1997, it was renamed INOVA Fairfax Hospital, and is now the flagship of the INOVA Health System, which includes five major hospitals and numerous other facilities in Northern Virginia. The Fairfax campus alone has expanded to 833 acute care beds, and includes the INOVA Fairfax Hospital for Children, the INOVA Fairfax Hospital for Women, the INOVA Heart and Vascular Institute, and the INOVA campus of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Ground was broken last June for a multi-year, billion-dollar renovation and additions to the Fairfax campus. INOVA Fairfax Hospital is the Level 1 Trauma Center for Northern Virginia, and consistently has been named among the 50 Best Hospitals in the United States by US News & World Report and Health Grades. Through it all, the INOVA Health System has never lost its home town, community health care focus. One wonders what founders Frank Iams and Grace Lucas would think today about the extraordinary outcome their simple idea has generated in just 50 years.

 


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov


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