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Hospital investing in future expansion

February 08, 2002

Hospital investing in future expansion



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro Hospital is hemmed in on a triangle of land between Pa. 16 on the south, Enterprise Avenue on the east and Roadside Avenue, which runs along the west side of the hospital's property line.

"We're landlocked," said John J. McElwee, Jr., vice president of Summit Health, the not-for-profit alliance made up of Waynesboro and Chambersburg hospitals and several area clinics.

To ease such restrictions, Summit Health is buying private homes as they come on the market in the block east of the main hospital building.

The block is bordered by Enterprise Avenue on the west, Prospect Avenue on the north, Pa. 16 (Main Street) on the south and Sunnyside Avenue on the east.

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Six of the nine homes in the block have been bought since last summer, McElwee said.

The first three came up all at once last summer, McElwee said. "It was like an omen," he said. The hospital's board of directors agreed that they should be purchased, he said.

The hospital missed buying a seventh property by a week in October, McElwee said. A young family with children closed on the house before hospital officials realized it had come on the market, he said.

One of the two homes left on the block is in an estate and the owners of the one next to it have not expressed a desire to sell, he said.

The hospital has not aggressively been trying to buy up all of the homes in the block, McElwee said. "We just rely on the market place as the people decide to sell," he said.

The hospital pays the appraised value of each property, he said. Selling to the hospital is advantageous to the homeowners because they bypass real estate agents and save thousands of dollars in fees, he said.

Buying the homes has helped the hospital solve another problem - finding quarters for new physicians. Four of the six homes in the block have been leased to new physicians, McElwee said.

He said the hospital has no plans for any of the properties, including the East Junior High site.

In 1990 the hospital bought the former East Junior High School building at auction for $570,000. The bid included 5.27 acres under and around the old school building. The building was razed in 1998. A grassed-over vacant field stands in its place. A small chunk is being used as a heliport. The rest sits idle.

Pa. 16 separates the main hospital property and the old school property. "If we expanded there we'd have to tunnel under (Pa.) 16 or build a bridge over it," McElwee said. Neither idea is favorable, he said.

Because of the barrier created by Pa. 16, the only direction that offers room to grow is east of the main hospital building. That's why homes there are being bought as they become available, he said.

McElwee said the Waynesboro area is growing and the hospital has to grow with it if it hopes to have the resources to care for the community in the future

"This hospital is a real community resource. We're not trying to take over the neighborhood, just ensure that we have resources when we need them."

Last summer, Summit purchased a medical clinic on Welty Road in Washington Township for $650,000 and converted it into Potomac OB/GYN and an ancillary service facility.

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