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Hospital fires back at city

A hospital spokesman criticized the city's challenge to the hospital's planned move

A hospital spokesman criticized the city's challenge to the hospital's planned move

August 02, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Hospital spokesman on Friday criticized the city of Hagerstown's challenge to the hospital's planned move and called one of a set of written questions about the move "stupid."

The questions were submitted to a state oversight agency Friday by an attorney retained by the city to oppose plans to build a new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center.

Barry Nickelsberg, executive director of development, community relations and marketing for the Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent company, made the comments in a telephone interview Friday.

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The city has retained Baltimore attorney David Funk, at $200 an hour, and hospital expert Hal Cohen of Baltimore, at $250 an hour, in an attempt to keep the hospital from leaving the city.

On Friday, Funk sent a letter to the Maryland Health Care Commission asking that it require the hospital to respond to eight pages of attached questions before the considering the hospital's request for a certificate of need. Obtaining a certificate of need is one of several requirements before the hospital can move from its Antietam Street building to hospital-owned land adjacent to Robinwood Medical Center on Robinwood Drive.

Among the questions the city asked is whether it would be more cost-effective to build a new hospital at the existing site.

"That question is as absurd as it is ridiculous. That is a stupid question," Nickelsberg said.

Nickelsberg criticized the questions coming so late - months after the hospital announced in November 2002 that it had chosen the Robinwood site, after a lengthy process, over other city and county sites.

"This really smacks of misguided notions and I don't understand, I truly don't understand, why these questions were not asked before. I don't get why the city is spending an extraordinary amount of taxpayer dollars," Nickelsberg said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said the city did not have the documentation it needed to raise the questions now being asked until the city obtained a copy of the hospital's application for a certificate of need.

"We are finding the (hospital's) application is not as complete as it should be. These are questions arising out of their own report," Breichner said. "Some are the same questions the Health Care Commission are asking."

Nickelsberg suggested the hospital had the community and its residents' needs at heart and questioned whether the city can say the same.

"It is called the Washington County Hospital. That's the name. It is not Hagerstown Hospital," he said.

Not only has the Robinwood site proven its effectiveness via "hundreds of thousands of visits" to the medical center, but the hospital and its patients will benefit by having a site outside of downtown Hagerstown, Nickelsberg said.

"They (the patients) will not have to fight city traffic. ... They will not have to try to find parking," he said.

Another questioned posed by the city was whether moving the hospital will slow emergency response time. Nickelsberg said the hospital has met with emergency officials who say response time would not be adversely affected.

The city's actions will cost the hospital time and money and delay improvements in patient care, Nickelsberg said.

"All of these stumbling blocks the city is trying to throw at us will slow us down," he said.

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