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Frederick makes play for veterans clinic

June 20, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Plans to open a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Hagerstown are being threatened by an attempt to have a similar facility located in Frederick, Md., but a VA official said its proposal hasn't changed.

A Frederick County official said Friday he would like Frederick to be the home of the new center - an overture that came as a surprise to some Washington County veterans.

"That's news to me," said Dieter Protsch, secretary of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County.

AVA official said there are plans to open only one outpatient center in the region, but they are proposing that the center be in Hagerstown and serve both Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, as well as Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania.

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"Hagerstown is the most centrally located (place)," said Doris Griffin, spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center east of Martinsburg, W.Va.

But that isn't deterring Frederick County Commissioners President Mark Hoke.

"I didn't know that and I don't really care," he said.

Hoke said Frederick is preparing a bid to have the center located in the county Health Department building, despite his understanding that a Hagerstown center is "almost a done deal."

"It isn't a done deal until someone drops the gavel and says, `That's my ruling,'" he said.

Protsch and other Washington County veterans had welcomed the news earlier this month that Hagerstown was the leading candidate for the center. The closest place they can currently receive treatment is the Martinsburg hospital.

A clinic could offer medical checkups, medical care for illnesses and many other services that do not require long-term hospitalization, officials said. Prescriptions could also be filled at the center.

Asked what advantage Frederick offers in hosting the center, Hoke responded, "Location for our people."

But Protsch said Hagerstown has the location edge because many area veterans would get no break in travel distance if they had to go to Frederick instead of Martinsburg, he said.

"I'm pretty sure we have a better chance," Protsch said. "We are located in a hub area here. We are serving the Tri-State Area. I'm not sure they can do that in Frederick."

Protsch said Hagerstown should also get the clinic because the state already has a space available at the Western Maryland Center. Frederick is still trying to work out the details of its offer, Hoke said.

Griffin said the Hagerstown proposal is still being considered by VA officials in Washington, D.C. The plan is then subject to congressional review, she said.

Officials with U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said they had hoped the center would be open by Labor Day.

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