It occurs to me that it’s been months since I’ve done a proper RCA History post, since my piece in May on RCA’s work with education. There’s been so much going on lately that I haven’t had a chance to look back at our past. But we’re due for another history lesson, so let’s step into the Wayback Machine and look at what RCA has done for Reston on the subject of health care.
As with education, health care was a subject that RCA tackled from its earliest years. Its efforts began in earnest in 1969, when founding RCA President Dick Hays was tapped to chair the Health Committee. The committee set out to lead Reston’s efforts to secure the level and range of health services appropriate to our community. These efforts were typical of RCA’s work in Reston’s pioneer days: our community was still largely a blank slate, and our citizens knew that they wanted and needed medical facilities in the community, so they rolled up their sleeves to draw up a plan and make sure Reston got the health care infrastructure it needed.
The committee quickly established subcommittees to set benchmarks for short- and long-range plans for health facilities, develop ideas for alternative systems for providing medical services, health research, and public information. One of the committee’s first initiatives was to work with Georgetown University to complete a community health survey.
RCA and the Health Committee wasted no time in creating a plan for Reston’s health care future. Within a year of the committee being organized, RCA and Georgetown had collaborated on a plan for a comprehensive prepaid group-practice medical program for Reston and nearby communities. It’s not clear that the plan was ultimately implemented, but this was an example of the innovative and thoughtful work that the Health Committee was performing.
One of Reston’s most important needs in the early years was for emergency medical facilities. If a Restonian needed emergency care, the closest facility was Fair Oaks Hospital. RCA recognized the need and led the campaign to bring emergency facilities to Reston. First, the Health Committee pushed to bring an urgent-care facility to Reston, which resulted in the construction of ACCESS (today known as the Inova Emergency Care Center). Today urgent-care centers are fairly common, but at the time, ACCESS was a pioneer: a 24-hour emergency care facility, freestanding and not connected to a hospital. Not only did this ensure that Restonians could receive emergency care without having to go to Fair Oaks, but by providing a facility that provided urgent care for less severe emergencies, it helped reduce crowding in the ER. The Inova Emergency Care Center remains a crucial part of Reston’s health-care infrastructure.
RCA was also a leader in bringing Reston an on-site hospital. My sister, who is a year younger than me, was born at Reston Hospital. And over the years, my family has been there many times to mend broken bones, treat illnesses, and receive physical therapy. Today, Reston Hospital Center performs over 11,000 surgeries a year and has almost 45,000 annual visits to its ER. It’s recognized as one of the top hospitals in the DC area. I’m proud to know that RCA helped bring such a high-quality facility to our community.
During the late ‘80s, as I’ve mentioned before, Janet Howell was RCA’s President. Even then, she recognized the importance of ensuring the availability of affordable health care for everyone. She made it one of RCA’s missions to ensure that all Restonians would be able to purchase affordable health care. To achieve that end, RCA partnered with an HMO to create a Reston health care plan. Thanks to the efforts of Janet and RCA, all Restonians had access to health care that provided comprehensive services at a reasonable price. The plan was eventually folded into Kaiser Permanente. Considering the fact that as a country we’re still struggling to solve the problems of universal health care coverage and affordability, RCA’s achievement remains impressive.
Today, we are not active on health care issues. But as you can see, RCA was a leader in bringing in many of the health care facilities we enjoy today in Reston. And as we prepare for the increased population that will come with the Silver Line and its associated development, RCA will be pushing to ensure that we have an appropriate level of health care services to cover both our existing and new residents. Dick Hays, Janet Howell, and the rest of RCA’s former Boards wouldn’t have it any other way.
As always, I’d like to hear from you. A lot of today’s biggest health care issues are nationwide in scope, but what about in our backyard? Are there health care needs in Reston today that aren’t being met? Are there issues that we could tackle at a local level, but aren’t? I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.