Hagerstown officials disappointed at choice of hospital site

November 15, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown officials say they were let down by Thursday's announcement that the Washington County Health System will pursue building a new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center, but they plan to continue fighting to keep the hospital downtown.

"They're turning their backs on this community," Mayor William M. Breichner said.

James P. Hamill, president and CEO of Washington County Hospital and parent company Washington County Health System Inc., acknowledged the city's efforts.

It was the city's arguments that convinced hospital officials to maintain a presence at its current Antietam Street location, he said.


Administrative offices and other yet-to-be determined services will remain there, he said.

"I think we listened to the concerns. This is our city and we want to be a part of that. I think it's very much a good-faith effort to respond to what we've heard," Hamill said.

But N. Linn Hendershot, one of three Hagerstown City Council members who attended Hamill's press conference Thursday, said the decision was not what the city wanted.

"I think they're trying to throw us a bone. I'm not quite sure there's any beef on the bone," Hendershot said.

Hagerstown officials had suggested a two-block area bordered by East Franklin Street, East Washington Street, Mulberry Street and Cannon Avenue for a new hospital.

The Hagerstown City Council had approved the use of imminent domain to acquire 59 properties there.

Breichner questioned the merits of splitting the project into two.

City Councilwoman Carol Moller said she is worried about how people without transportation will be able to get to the new hospital.

City Councilman Kristin Aleshire said he understands some of the arguments for the Robinwood area, but he still believes the hospital should stay downtown.

"As a city official, you want what's best for the city," he said.

Breichner said he hasn't lost hope that hospital officials will change their mind.

"To me, I still think it's common sense to keep it in downtown Hagerstown," Breichner said.

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