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Why hospital's move makes sense

August 10, 2003|By James Hamill

On behalf of the Washington County Health System and hospital boards of directors, I want to thank The Herald-Mail for its recent editorial support of the proposal to build a new regional medical center at the Robinwood site.

The process of deciding to build a regional medical center is time consuming and complex. I would like to share with your readers how we decided to locate the new hospital at Robinwood. From September 2000 to the summer of 2001, the hospital staff, architects and others studied various renovation scenarios for our current site, but there were no solutions that met our needs.

As a comparison, a replacement scenario was developed between summer 2001 and late fall 2001 and in November 2001, the health system board decided to pursue a replacement facility. We spent the next year comparing 13 potential hospital sites, weighing each site by five criteria before the final decision was made. In November 2002 after intense review, the health system board determined that a new hospital at the Robinwood site would best suit the changing health care needs in our region.

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We decided to build at Robinwood for several reasons. First, we own the property so we would not have to purchase property or take the homes and businesses of our neighbors by eminent domain. Second, it is less expensive over time to maintain a smaller, energy-efficient, replacement hospital than to maintain a larger, renovated building. Third, from a quality of care perspective, a replacement facility allows expansion of patient rooms, accommodating critical monitoring equipment and providing space to deliver the increasing number of in-room medical treatments available today.

In making the decision to move to Robinwood, the health system board also considered the disruption to our patients, their families, our medical staff, and our employees over the years it would take to complete a renovation. During a lengthy renovation, we would have compromised our mission to provide the most effective health care in the region.

The health system board also considered what to do with the current building when we moved to Robinwood. We have included in our funding for the project monies to return it to a green space. Since our job is health care, we do not feel it is our primary responsibility to find an alternative use for the current site. However, we are very willing to work with the City of Hagerstown, the Washington County Economic Development Commission, or anyone else who has an idea for an alternative use.

We also recognized that some of our patients will have transportation needs no matter where the new hospital is built. Currently, the hospital provides van transportation, when needed, for inpatients who are being discharged and outpatients. Our Medicaid patients can apply to the Washington County Health Department for free taxi service to medical appointments. While we do not want to be in a competitive situation with the County Commuter or private taxi services, we are willing to discuss transportation opportunities for those coming to any of our sites.

To make health care more easily accessible to city residents, the health system opened the H. W. Murphy Community Health Center in 1999. This year, the health system assisted in its transition to a free-standing health care center. Now, it will receive annual federal grants to provide services to the uninsured and the health system will continue to support it with in-kind services, saving the center considerable expense.

Washington County Health System made the right decision in locating the proposed regional medical center at the Robinwood site. Having a modern, technologically-advanced hospital in Washington County will be a great asset to the City of Hagerstown, Washington County, and the Tri-State region. It will draw new businesses to our community, bringing more jobs for our citizens. It will continue to attract excellent health care providers from all disciplines, who want to spend more time with their patients and less time commuting between their offices and the hospital.

The Robinwood location will offer synergies with the local educational institutions, developing a core of highly-trained medical professionals who can find excellent employment opportunities right here at home. Most importantly, it will benefit our patients who deserve the best medical care that we can provide them in a constantly evolving, complex healthcare environment.




James P. Hamill is president and CEO Washington County Health System.

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