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Board wants to build new hospital

December 06, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Jefferson Memorial Hospital officials have decided they will pursue building a new hospital to meet the needs of the growing community, the hospital's chief operating officer said Thursday.

Although much work lies ahead, including finding a site for the hospital and lining up financing, John Sherwood said he and the hospital's board of directors are confident a new facility can be built.

"We are enthusiastic that it can happen and that it will happen," Sherwood said Thursday night.

The hospital's board of directors decided during a meeting Wednesday night to pursue building the new hospital, Sherwood said.

Building a new hospital was considered along with renovating the existing hospital or building a new hospital at the current site at 300 S. Preston St.

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The latter two options appeared to be too costly, Sherwood said.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Sherwood said.

Sherwood has said that a new facility is needed because the current hospital has space limitations and parts of its layout are not conducive to efficient operations.

Sherwood said Thursday another drawback of the current hospital is accessibility to the 60-bed facility.

There are three railroad lines in the vicinity of the hospital and they can tie up incoming ambulances when trains are passing through, Sherwood said.

Sherwood said he does not have any specific sites in mind, but he would like to stay in the Charles Town and Ranson area.

"The population center will probably continue to be in this immediate area. I'm sure once this comes out some people will be calling with potential sites," said Sherwood, adding that the hospital will need between 30 and 50 acres.

A committee will be established to search for possible sites, Sherwood said.

Although the size of the new hospital is an issue that is still being studied, hospital officials know they want a facility that will include physician offices and other related services, Sherwood said.

Currently, physician offices are scattered around the county - some in old homes - and the hospital feels it is important to have them concentrated around the hospital, Sherwood said.

Sherwood has estimated it will cost between $40 million and $60 million to build a new hospital.

Remaining work includes narrowing down the cost and identifying sources of funding, Sherwood said. Funding sources include borrowing money, philanthropic organizations that can supply money and money generated for current operations, Sherwood said.

Finally, the hospital wants to get input from the community and the "hospital family" about what the hospital should include, Sherwood said.

Meeting dates will be announced soon to facilitate the input, he said.

The decision to build a new facility brought mixed reaction from area officials.

With some hospitals struggling or closing, it is good to see one growing, said Jefferson County Commissioner Jane Tabb.

"I'm sure they need to do that to survive in this day and age. I'm all for it," Tabb said.

While Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton was surprised by the decision, he said he "fully supports them. We're fortunate they're here."

Ranson Mayor David Hamill said he could not believe the hospital would spend as much time as it has studying the issue and not seek input from him or city council members.

Hamill questioned the effectiveness of having input meetings now.

"What good is that when a decision has already been made? I'm devastated," Hamill said.

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