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Washington County Health System to expand

December 16, 2000

Washington County Health System to expand



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


The Washington County Health System is planning a major renovation at the 95-year-old Washington County Hospital and a new building at the Robinwood Medical Center campus.

Construction on the $19.6 million Robinwood III is expected to begin in early 2001 and be complete by the summer of 2002, said James P. Hamill, the health system's president and chief executive officer.

The 133,990-square-foot building would be to the west of the Robinwood Medical Center and John R. Marsh Cancer Center and face Mount Aetna Road, said health system spokeswoman Maureen Theriault.

The initial construction will be financed by a pool loan program through the Bank of America, Theriault said.

The Bank of America has set up a pool of money from which various hospitals in Maryland can draw as needed, said Richard Phoebus, a health system board member and president of Home Federal Savings Bank in Hagerstown.

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While the third building has long been planned for Robinwood, it has not gone through the permit and zoning phase yet, Theriault said. Hospital officials expect to begin seeking site plan approval in January or February.

More than 90 percent of the space in the new building is already committed, Hamill said.

The new building will have an immediate care center, which will serve as a complement to the hospital's emergency room, Hamill said.

The new building also will house a women's center, dialysis services, more conference space and alternative medicine - an idea still under development, Hamill said. Alternative medicine could include acupuncture and massage.

The women's center will centralize at Robinwood III women's services that the health system already provides such as diagnostic imaging for mammograms and gynecologists' offices, Theriault said.

The birthing center would remain at the hospital.

The building also will house physicians' offices.

The demand from physicians for office space at Robinwood drove the need, in part, for the new building, Theriault said. The need to take some strain off the hospital's ER was the other factor.

Renovating and expanding the emergency room and trauma center are part of a five-year renovation the health system is developing for the hospital, Hamill said.

The four-phase renovation is expected to begin in 2001, he said. Health system officials are still developing the plan and don't have a cost estimate.

They will look at what services have the most demand and whether renovations or expansions would make those areas more effective, Hamill said.

The trick is to phase the renovation so the hospital can continue to provide care, something Hamill said he gained experience ensuring at other health systems.

With 65,000 visits a year, hospital officials want to redesign the ER and trauma center so it is more effective, Hamill said.

"We've seen exploding growth in the emergency room and the trauma center," Hamill said.

That growth is expected to continue as the hospital has begun accepting trauma patients from Berkeley County, W.Va.

On Dec. 1, City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., began referring trauma patients to Washington County Hospital instead of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., because Inova's trauma center was over capacity, said Daryl LaRusso, medical director of City Hospital's Emergency Department.

The agreement between the two hospitals is expected to be finalized by the end of January, Hamill said.

Inova's trauma center, rated at Level I, has greater capability than Washington County Hospital's trauma center, designated a Level II, LaRusso said.

The hospital's ER has become "a primary care facility for folks who can't get in to see physicians," Hamill said.

To compensate, the health system will recruit primary care doctors from outside the area because there is a shortage in Washington County, Hamill said.

Some of these doctors will work at the Robinwood Medical Center campus and others could be at outlying health centers in the county, Hamill said.

The renovation also will expand the same-day surgery unit on the hospital's second floor, Theriault said.

The health system will have positron emission tomography or PET scans available in January, Hamill said.

Where a computed tomography, or CAT scan, can reveal a mass, a PET scan can reveal biochemical changes on a cellular level, Theriault said.

At first the PET scan will be kept in a mobile unit such as a van, she said.

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