BALTIMORE -- Maryland regulators on Thursday gave the go-ahead to Holy Cross Hospital to build a new hospital in Germantown, ending a long-simmering clash between two of the region's largest health care providers to plant their flag in northern Montgomery County. The Maryland Health Care Commission favored Holy Cross Hospital's plan to build a 93-bed general care facility on the Germantown campus of Montgomery College, denying Adventist HealthCare's bid to place an 86-bed hospital along Interstate 270 in Clarksburg.

In essence, commissioners preferred to build a new hospital in an established community rather than years in advance of expected population growth in a more rural pocket of the affluent jurisdiction. They approved the plan unanimously, with three commissioners abstaining from the vote.

Marilyn Moon, the commission's chairwoman, said the Holy Cross facility "will improve access for the greatest number of people and deliver those services at a reasonable cost."

Holy Cross Hospital proposal
$202 million project
75 medical/surgical, 12 obstetrics and six psychiatric beds
237,000 square feet
Five operating rooms
12 emergency beds
Five labor and delivery rooms

The Germantown-Gaithersburg area is home to about a quarter of a million people and expected to add another 175,000 residents -- a majority of them over the age of 65 -- during the next two decades, according to county projections.

But Adventist President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Robertson called the construction of a satellite hospital for Holy Cross' existing Silver Spring site an "unnecessary duplication of existing services."

Adventist operates a stand-alone emergency center about a mile from the site of the proposed Holy Cross hospital. Robertson said Adventist would appeal the decision in court.

Women's rights groups also blasted the selection of the Catholic organization, saying it would limit the reproductive options for area residents. Abortions and fertility treatments would not be performed at the

hospital, but Moon said women could seek out those services in other parts of the county.

Moon previously issued a report recommending Holy Cross, citing the group's stable finances and the advantages of placing a hospital in an area with an entrenched population. The recommendation carried significant weight with commissioners, who asked few questions before voting in favor of the more than $200 million project.

Holy Cross must receive approval from Montgomery County officials to move forward with the suburb's first new hospital in 30 years.