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CEO gives update on new hospital

June 05, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

As local health officials plan for a new hospital, they're also planning for changing health and security needs, according to James Hamill, president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health Systems Inc.

Hamill updated local business leaders on plans for the new hospital during the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eggs & Issues meeting Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel. Washington County Health Systems is the parent company of the Washington County Hospital; Hamill has been CEO since September 2000.

More efficient space, more privacy for patients, easier access and room for new medical technology were driving the design for the new hospital, slated to open in early 2007 near the Robinwood Medical Center, Hamill said.

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Issues of security and safety, which have changed since terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and the emergence of new diseases requiring isolation also have figured into the design, he said.

"And there are special requirements we have by virtue of the folks we serve in this area," Hamill said.

Barring delays, construction should begin next March, he said. When complete, the new hospital would have 278 acute-care beds, all in private rooms - although Hamill said the rooms would be charged at semi-private rates.

Right now, the hospital on Antietam Street has 254 acute-care beds, Hamill said.

It also has inefficient floor plans, he said, and makes complying with hospital building codes difficult.

The essence of a hospital is its staff and "the building is just a tool," he noted. "The designs we're dealing with now don't work for us."

The new plan would double the size of the emergency department, which Hamill said treats 65,000 patients a year. Areas for special procedures would be located near operating suites, and corridors and elevators used by the public would be separate from those used by patients and staff.

The new plan also anticipates growth - "all the clinical areas are located on outside walls so they can be expanded," Hamill said. Demands for services by patients under 65 were growing faster than previously anticipated, he said.

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