Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Health care is getting a lot of attention these days. Whether the Covid Delta variant, vaccinations in general, or mental health issues voiced by gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka, paying attention to what our bodies, and health care professionals, are telling us, can be life-saving.

Much as most of us might like to “power on through” physical and mental health challenges, there comes a time when we have to say “Stop, something’s not right.”

For international sports figures, that takes a lot of courage, as they risk criticism and mean-spirited comments by internet trolls, as well as people who should know better. For ordinary mortals like you and me, the process is more private, but nonetheless important.

Fortunately, we live in an area where first-class health care is readily available, often regardless of income or insurance.
The INOVA system, which includes five hospitals and many outpatient specialties, has served Fairfax County and the region since 1960, when the original Fairfax Hospital was constructed. What seemed like a sizable building then has been dwarfed by many new structures — The INOVA Heart and Vascular Institute, the INOVA Women’s and Children’s Center, the new South Tower, and multiple parking garages.

The bricks and mortar are impressive, but much more impressive is the care happening inside. INOVA’s health care professionals — doctors, hospitalists, nurses, technicians, care managers — provide patient-centered care, and that care was recognized last week when U.S. News and World Report announced that the INOVA Fairfax Medical Campus (IFMC) was ranked the #1 hospital in both Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for their 2021-2022 Best Hospitals list.

In addition, IFMC Gynecology ranked #6 in the nation, and INOVA Loudoun’s Neurology and Neurosurgery Department is among the 50 best in the nation, at #41.

More good news for the INOVA system: INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital ranked #10 in Virginia and #4 in the metro region, and INOVA Alexandria and INOVA Loudoun hospitals tied at #13 in Virginia and #7 in the region. Additionally, the INOVA system announced last week that it has filed a letter of intent with the Commonwealth of Virginia to build 20 additional inpatient behavioral health beds at INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital. If approved by the state regulatory process, construction of the new bed space could begin early next year.

Behavioral health beds are sorely needed in Virginia, and the additional 20 beds will increase capacity at INOVA Mount Vernon by two-thirds, to 50 beds.

Overall, the additional beds will increase INOVA’s behavioral health beds to 153 across the system. INOVA’s 11 emergency departments treat more than 1200 behavioral health patients each month!

I represent Fairfax County on INOVA’s Board of Trustees, so I have participated in many of the governance decisions during the past decade or more.

As health care has changed dramatically during the last quarter century, the investments made by the not-for-profit INOVA system have benefited the community, not just in excellent state-of-the-art patient care, but in community partnerships that focus on healthy living, wellness care, and affordable clinics. Health care may be big business, but INOVA is our home-town provider, something I try to reinforce at every INOVA meeting.

Sad news this week as we learned of the passing of former longtime Parklawn Elementary School principal, Susan Akroyd. Susan was a petite ball of energy, always positive and smiling, who adored her students, and they loved her in return. Her retirement party was one great big warm embrace! She led Parklawn for an unprecedented 26 years, and retired in 2014 after 41 years as an educator.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]