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Hospital picks site out of city

Location near Robinwood chosen

Location near Robinwood chosen

November 15, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County Health System Inc. will pursue building a new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center, leaving its administrative offices and some other yet-to-be determined services in downtown Hagerstown.

The announcement came at a Thursday afternoon press conference called by James P. Hamill, president and CEO of the hospital and the health system, its parent organization.

Hamill said the health system's board of directors voted Wednesday night to move forward with the plan based on the recommendation of a site selection committee.

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But he said the decision is not final and there are many other steps in the process of opening a new hospital by 2007. Cost estimates are in the range of $150 million, he said.

"Keep in mind this is a journey," Hamill said.

The Robinwood location, which includes more than 200 acres of agricultural land, best meets the needs of the hospital in the decades to come, he said.

The site would provide access for patients and is near what Hamill called "arguably one of the most successful medical malls in the country."

There is also plenty of room to expand, he said.

The site selection committee, who Hamill declined to name, had also considered sites in downtown Hagerstown and near Interstate 70.

Hagerstown officials, who lobbied strongly to keep the hospital downtown, said they were disappointed the hospital didn't choose a two-block area bordered by East Franklin Street, East Washington Street, Mulberry Street and Cannon Avenue.

The hospital would keep its administrative offices downtown, along with some other clinical and support services, Hamill said.

"It will be a fairly significant presence," he said, although the details have not been determined.

Some patient care will still be offered downtown. At a minimum, there will be an urgent care center to provide immediate care to patients with minor injuries or illnesses when their family doctor is unavailable, he said.

Allegheny Energy, whose site in Friendship Technology Park off I-70 was rejected, supports the hospital's decision, company spokesman Guy Fletcher said.

"One thing we've always said is that we believe whatever location selected by the hospital would be in the best interest of the county and the region," he said.

Hamill said the health system will now begin tackling other questions, including whether the hospital can afford the project.

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer has said between $20 million and $25 million in road improvements would probably be needed in the Robinwood area if a new hospital is built there.

Those include a connection road between Robinwood Drive and Md. 64, extension of Professional Court from Eastern Boulevard to Robinwood Drive, which would require a bridge over Antietam Creek, and upgrades to the intersection of Dual Highway and Edgewood Drive.

Those costs would probably be divided between the government and the hospital, Rohrer has said.

Hagerstown Community College, which is located near the proposed site, stands to benefit, said Guy Altieri, president of the college.

The college plans to expand its nursing and other health programs, which would benefit by having the hospital nearby, he said.

"I think it's an excellent decision," he said.

During the press conference, Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot questioned the wisdom of beginning such an expensive project when the economy is down.

Hamill said now is the best time to borrow money because the interest rates are low.

Replacing the hospital is much more cost-effective than building new, he said.

"I take very personally, very seriously, spending this kind of money for the community," he said.

Hagerstown Finance Director Al Martin asked whether the project would exacerbate the problem of increasing medical costs.

Hamill said it would not affect individual insurance rates, which are calculated based on statewide medical costs.

It could add in the neighborhood of 6 percent to hospital costs, he said.




Factors in hospital decision



Main factors in the decision by the Washington County Health System to pursue building a new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center, according to James P. Hamill, president and CEO of Washington County Hospital and the health system:

- Cost

- Easy access for patients, emergency services workers and doctors

- Proximity to Robinwood Medical Center

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