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New hospital site to be picked by summer

February 06, 2002

New hospital site to be picked by summer



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


A decision on a site for a new Washington County Hospital is to be made this summer, James P. Hamill, president and chief executive officer of the Washington County Health System, told the Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

A decision on whether to build a hospital won't be made until fall 2003, he said. After a preferred site is selected, the Health System, the hospital's parent company, can get a better handle on the estimated cost and determine if it can afford a new hospital, he said.

If the Health System's board of directors votes to move forward with the project, construction could begin soon after. The hospital would be open and taking patients three years later, Hamill said.

Hamill, speaking for the Health System, announced in November it was considering building a new hospital. He said then that he would meet with groups to explain what is being considered and take input. He met with the County Commissioners Tuesday and with the Hagerstown City Council last month.

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Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown probably will be demolished after a new hospital is built and the land probably will be turned into a park, he said.

A new hospital would be more efficient, address space constraints and allow the Health System to implement new medical technology and equipment, he said.

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

No matter what site is selected, some will oppose the new location because they don't want to have a hospital next to their homes. The Health System would work with those people to try to minimize the impact, he said.

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

Potential sites for the new hospital include the parking lots near the existing hospital, land at the Robinwood Medical Center, or a city location, possibly somewhere downtown, he said. He said other locations are being sought.

Building on the existing hospital parking lots would save millions of dollars because the hospital could use the power plant already there, Hamill 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. He questioned how much more should be built there.

Hamill did not provide a cost estimate for a new hospital.

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