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Hospital chief, city at odds

February 02, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The president of Washington County Hospital has criticized a request by the mayor of Hagerstown for state legislation requiring a city representative on the hospital's board of directors.

Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer James Hamill cited what he called "sinister intent" behind the request, which follows the hospital administration's decision to build a new facility outside the city near Robinwood Medical Center.

Prior to a December joint meeting with the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Mayor William M. Breichner dug up a 1949 state law that required the hospital board of directors to include the city's mayor and the president of the Washington County Commissioners.

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The hospital's charter was amended in 1973 to remove those requirements. Now Breichner wants them reinstated.

Hamill said Breichner and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook were given the opportunity a year ago to appoint representatives to the task force looking at a possible new hospital location. Snook served for the county and Hagerstown Planning Commission Chairman Doug Wright served for the city.

Now that the hospital has announced plans to move, the city is disappointed with the results and "wants to impose itself on a community not-for-profit," Hamill said.

"To me that's a very, very sinister intent," he said. "That's no reason to impose yourself on a community not-for-profit organization's governance."

Hamill said he finds it hard to believe the hospital can be forced to have an elected official on its board of directors.

Breichner said it would be to the hospital's advantage to have a city government representative on the board because that person might know something helpful. He thinks the hospital should also be required to have a county and state government representative on its board.

Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, said it can't hurt to have city government representation on the board but he is not sure it needs to be mandatory.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said it is not a bad idea for the board to have city or county government representation but that should be the board's choice, not a state requirement.

Shank said that if plans for a new hospital proceed, Hagerstown will be just one of the municipalities served by the facility. He asked if that meant the board should also have representatives from Funkstown, Smithsburg and other municipalities.

Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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