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Cancer center plans hinge on ruling
A Richmond judge said he needs time to consider an appeal by Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center

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Date published: 9/22/2009



--Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center will have to wait to find out whether it can compete with Mary Washington Hospital to build the region's second cancer center.

Judge Melvin Hughes yesterday postponed a decision on the hospital's appeal after hearing arguments in Richmond Circuit Court. Hughes said he needed a few days to review the paperwork.

Duncan Getchell, attorney for Spotsylvania Regional, told the judge that the hospital and its parent company, HCA Inc., had been watching Mary Washington and planned to compete if Mary Washington filed a plan for a new cancer center.

Mary Washington did file an application in April with the Virginia Department of Health for a cancer center, but its action "slipped by us," Getchell said.

Spotsylvania Regional tried to recover and file an application of its own, but its application was one day late, Getchell said.

The state would not extend the filing deadline and told Spotsylvania Regional that it would consider its application next year.

Rather than wait, the hospitals filed the court appeal.

Matthew Cobb, assistant attorney general, represented the Health Department. He and Mark Hedberg, representing Mary Washington, told Judge Hughes that Spotsylvania Regional's appeal should be dismissed because the hospital filed it in Richmond.

The hospital should have filed the appeal in Spotsylvania Circuit Court, they said, since that is where it regularly does business.

Getchell countered that the hospital had its choice of venues, one of which was Richmond.

Both sides agreed that the appeal will be moot if Mary Washington's cancer center application is rejected by the state.

A Health Department analyst recommended exactly that Friday, saying that the Fredericksburg region does not need another cancer center.

A final decision rests with Dr. Karen Remley, state health commissioner, and could come by the end of the year.

Both Mary Washington and Spotsylvania Regional believe that the region can support a second cancer center.

The existing center, the Cancer Center of Virginia on State Route 3, did about 15,000 treatments in 2008.

Cancer patients visit these centers to receive measured doses of radiation directed at their tumors.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433
Email: jhall@freelancestar.com