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Winchester hospital's move to fringe of city called 'very good thing'

August 04, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown officials fear downtown will suffer if a new Washington County Hospital is built elsewhere, but community leaders in another city said its downtown hospital's move to the city's outskirts was beneficial.

Health care-related businesses in downtown Hagerstown would likely trail the new hospital out of the city, leaving more empty buildings and hurting the city's tax base, Mayor William M. Breichner said.

It would be difficult to fill those and other empty buildings downtown because potential new developers and business owners would see the hospital's departure as a sign of Hagerstown's decline, Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said.

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Winchester, Va., city officials had the same concerns about their downtown's fate before Winchester Memorial Hospital moved to the city's western fringe about 15 years ago because it needed more space to expand its services, Town Manager Ed Daley said.

"There was anxiety about what would happen to downtown," he said. "But the community has benefited. This has been a very good thing for Winchester."

Hospital and city officials worked closely to develop a re-use plan for the old hospital and surrounding residential buildings that housed nursing students and health care-related businesses, Daley said.

Rehabilitation and other medical services now fill the old hospital building. Families occupy the large homes in the surrounding neighborhood.

Hagerstown officials might be able to learn from downtown Winchester's post-hospital redevelopment, said Hendershot, who was impressed with the old hospital facility and new medical center when he visited Winchester.

The new Winchester Medical Center offers the latest technology and ever-expanding services to meet all the community's health care needs, Daley said.

The medical center's 150-acre campus includes the six-story hospital; a medical office building, pharmacy and cancer center; outpatient diagnostic and surgery facilities; an imaging center; psychiatric centers; a 250-seat conference facility; two employee child care centers; a restaurant; and park and walking trails, according to the Valley Health System Web site.

The Shenandoah University School of Health Professions occupies a new building on the property to accommodate undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, pharmacy and respiratory therapy.

The hospital's relocation to the city's less-congested outskirts ended parking and traffic problems that plagued the downtown site, Daley said.

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