Mary Washington Healthcare has signed a contract to bring an urgent-care center to King George County—a move that a local developer hopes eventually will lead to a stand-alone emergency room in the medically under-served locality.

Darell Hertenstein, who owns a real-estate company and investment group in King George, is planning a mixed development in the vicinity of State Route 3 and U.S. 301, near the county courthouse area. The project is still in the development stages, but Hertenstein is considering homes, apartments, townhouses, a day-care facility, speech therapy center and a Cowboy Jack’s Restaurant.

Mary Washington has agreed to build an urgent-care center as part of the mix, said Eric Fletcher, senior vice president for strategy, marketing and business development.

“We’ve been in King George a long time,” Fletcher said, referring to a family practice in Dahlgren and lab facility in the courthouse area. “This represents an additional level of investment for the county.”

The center would be the third such urgent-care center in King George, and members of the county’s Board of Supervisors and other business leaders have stressed they want a satellite hospital. Hertenstein hopes a Mary Washington clinic will lead to bigger things.

“Getting Mary Washington established here is the first step toward getting an emergency room,” Hertenstein said.

Hertenstein said he’s already talked with the King George Board of Supervisors, behind closed doors, and hopes to present his project to the King George Planning Commission as early as February. He owns about 35 acres and is seeking additional property so the development will front both 3 and 301.

He had been talking with health-care providers about the possibility of a stand-alone emergency room for more than a year and regularly has heard the same answer from medical officials.

“The county simply doesn’t have the population to support a full emergency room,” Fletcher said.

Such a project would cost more than $10 million to build, require a community of physicians and specialists to support it and need a sufficient population to generate about 60 patients per day, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

With a population of 27,000 residents, King George would produce about 32 visits per day, Fletcher said. “So in essence, King George would need roughly double its current population to support a high quality free-standing emergency room,” he added.

As the county has pushed the need for an emergency room, it has stressed that the facility would draw residents from Caroline and Westmoreland counties and even southern Maryland, said Ryan Gandy, King George’s director of economic development.

The county is working on its strategic plan for growth and recently held town halls throughout King George to garner input from residents. At each gathering, more health-care facilities were identified as a primary need, along with broadband and affordable housing.

“Everybody pretty much agrees that we need to have something more than we already have,” Gandy said about health-care facilities.

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R–1st District has joined the discussion, citing the critical need to expand the county’s health-care infrastructure “so those in King George won’t have to drive an exorbitant distance at a critical time.”

Residents in Caroline and the Northern Neck are 45 minutes to an hour away from hospitals in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania or Tappahannock. In addition, when King George crews answer a medical call in a remote area, their ambulances are tied up for as long as two hours, Gandy said.

Fletcher said the facility probably would include the clinic, lab and some imaging capabilities in a building that would be between 5,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet. If the property gets the necessary county approval and rezoning, Fletcher expects the urgent-care clinic, which probably would be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and some weekend hours, to be complete by the latter part of next year or early 2020.

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Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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