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Hospital could be leveled

January 09, 2002

Hospital could be leveled



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown probably will be demolished after a new hospital is built, said James P. Hamill, president and CEO of the Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent company.

A new hospital could be under construction in fall 2003, and be open and taking patients three years later, Hamill said Tuesday during a meeting with Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council.

Potential sites for the new hospital are the parking lots near the existing hospital, land at the Robinwood Medical Center, or a "prominent" city location, possibly somewhere downtown, he said, adding that more alternative locations are being sought.

Hamill said it would be preferable to find another use for the hospital facility at Antietam and King streets.

"(But) it is hard to find a reuse of the existing facility. ... We anticipate tearing down the facility," Hamill said.

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He said perhaps a park would be put on the property.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said, "It's exciting to hear your commitment to the old building. Your commitment not to leave a building there vacant."

The current hospital was built in four phases, the first in 1934 and the last in 1981. The MRI wing was expanded in 1993.

A year ago, Hamill said he expected the hospital would be able to expand at the current location. But the three renovation plans developed were "all relatively costly and all had significant limitations," he said.

Now, the Health System is focused on building a new hospital, he said. Hamill would not say how much a new hospital might cost.

A hospital should be accessible to patients and employees, some of whom use public transportation to get to work, Hamill said.

Building on the existing hospital parking lots would save "millions" of dollars because the hospital could use the power plant already there, he said.

Land around the Robinwood Medical Center off Robinwood Drive, and also owned by the Health System, is being considered. But Hamill said that area soon will have more than 300,000 square feet of space.

"How much more do we need at that site?" he asked.

Hamill said there may be "value in looking at a more prominent (location) in the city," especially considering a new state university center may open in downtown Hagerstown.

Hamill said there's the chance a new hospital could go to a location not yet considered.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he's heard the city golf course mentioned as a potential site for the new hospital.

Hamill said he asked about that possibility once, in jest.

Whatever site is chosen, Hamill said there's sure to be people opposed to the new location because they won't want to have a hospital next to their homes.

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