Hospital makes moves to 'reduce hassle factor'

December 13, 1997

Hospital makes moves to 'reduce hassle factor'


Staff Writer

A move to keep Washington County's largest health care provider local and affordable has spawned the Washington County Health System Inc.

"We want to reassure people that we are still their local hospital - the same people, the same care,'' said John Costopoulos, director of planning and community relations.

Horace Murphy, now the chief executive officer of the new corporation, explained that the Washington County Health System Inc. is now the parent corporation of Washington County Hospital, Antietam Health Services Inc., and the Washington County Hospital Endowment Fund.


The reorganization of the not-for-profit and the for-profit arms of the corporation into one has resulted in one board of directors with Richard Phoebus as chairman of that board.

Board members include Wayne Alter, Dr. Douglas Becker, Howard Bowen, Dr. Edward Byrd, Dr. Edward Drawbaugh, David Engle, Richard Gagliardi, Lois Harrison, Donald Harsh Jr., John Latimer III, Gaye McGovern, Horace Murphy, Dr. George Newman, JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, Dr. Robert Parker, Phil Rohrer and Robert Stift.

"We've been talking about this for three years and moving in this direction,'' Murphy said. "We actually threw the switch in October.''

While there is one combined board, each entity still maintains councils and committees which report to and work with the board, Murphy said.

One of those councils is the community health council which is committed to getting health services to the underserved and the uninsured population in Washington County.

"We will be working to bring health care back into the city where the need is great,'' Murphy said.

Responding to the argument that it was the hospital that moved health care out of the city - to the Robinwood Medical Campus, Murphy said that was an economic phenomenon, not a concerted move.

"This is a big, landlocked parking, no room for expansion and the doctors wanted to be out of town,'' Murphy said.

He said he is determined to put that community health council at a board level so it will be a priority.

The next special council is the physician services council and Murphy said he is really excited about the possibilities for vast improvements for the public here.

"The principal providers of care have to be connected for the rapid exchange of information,'' Murphy said, referring to computer interface between doctors, specialists, operating rooms, etc.

If a doctor sees a patient and needs to refer that patient to a specialist or admit that patient to the hospital, that should all be done by computer right then and there, Murphy said.

While 30-40 doctors are already tied in to each other, that needs to be expanded. They can go on line and schedule while the patient is still in the office, Murphy said.

"Now it's done by telephone and it takes days,'' he said. "Physicians are so integral to health care that we want to make this simple.''

Such a system will take time and money and a new infrastructure but it needs to be done, Murphy said.

Changes are difficult but necessary, Murphy said. And he predicts that in the next century, health care will continue to evolve.

"We're heading in a direction where community hospitals are networking together to form larger systems for larger populations - they have to,'' Murphy said.

Some of this has already been done, according to John Costopoulos, director of planning and community relations.

Recently the Washington County Health System announced an affiliation with Tressler Lutheran Services for an assisted living and independent retirement community on Robinwood Drive.

"We are also affiliating with Maryland General Hospital and the Cumberland hospitals in certain areas of care,'' Costopoulos said.

Both Costopoulos and Murphy said that the public should only notice a difference in getting care and arranging care - it should be faster than before.

"We are striving to reduce the hassle factor,'' Murphy said.

Washington County Hospital is a 341-bed acute care, non-profit regional medical center, serving a Tri-State region including Western Maryland, parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Acute care, rehabilitation services, medical/surgical center are all hospital-based.

A designated trauma center, the hospital employs more than 1,700 people and has 200 physicians representing more than 30 subspecialties.

Antietam Health Services Inc., is a for-profit subsidiary of the Washington County Health System Inc. which includes Robinwood Medical Center, HomeCare Pharmacies, durable medical equipment, corporate health, and management services of hospital-owned practices such as family medical centers located around the county.

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