On hospital matter, we're doing what's best for citizens

October 12, 2003|by William M. Breichner

In light of Mr. Hamill's (President and CEO of Washington County Hospital) response published in The Herald-Mail on Sept. 21 to the city's questions about the proposed relocation of Washington County Hospital from their current site to Robinwood, we feel that it is appropriate to dispel any confusion that might exist regarding the city's purpose and objective regarding to the hospital's project.

The city and the hospital are in agreement on the fundamental goal: Washington County and Hagerstown need a state-of-the-art regional medical center to serve our community. At no time have we disputed this need.

Also, please understand that we are not suggesting renovation of the older structure as the sole solution. It is the city's position that we will support the hospital building a new and improved facility at the location which is the most cost-effective and most accessible for Hagerstown's residents and the hospital's patient population. If the hospital can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the State Health Care Commission that a new state-of-the-art regional medical center cannot be built at the downtown location, the city, although disappointed by the loss of the hospital, will do nothing to delay or obstruct the relocation.


However, the impact of moving the hospital to Robinwood on the future vitality of the city must be understood by all sectors of the community. With the coming of the new university, the Bowman project, the School for the Arts, and the development of a Community Development Corporation, the city is on the brink of renewed health and vitality. Local business and government lenders are constantly telling city government that they need to do more to revitalize our city and we are more than willing to accept that challenge. Unfortunately, what we are seeing are many of the same local businesses and government lenders supporting the relocation of the community's largest health care provider to a location outside of the city.

The loss of a major institution such as the hospital will be a serious blow to the vitality of our city and make the much needed revitalization efforts increasingly more difficult. For Hagerstown to improve our community's quality of life, we need our major institutions such as the hospital to remain in the city and support the community that has been its home for 100 years. As you know, the city has "stepped up to the plate" and made a number of concessions to demonstrate our sincere desire to have them remain at a downtown location.

Hospitals throughout the county are building new and expanded facilities within the core of their cities. In doing so they are able to meet their operating needs and their community's demands for health services, while strengthening the cities in which they are located. This is what Hagerstown needs. We believe the hospital can build within Hagerstown and very successfully meet their operating requirements and the needs of their patients.

The hospital filed its application for the new facility at Robinwood with the State Commission on June 24, 2003. The commission will not formally accept the hospital's application until the commission receives complete information on the project from the hospital. The hospital has responded to the commission's request for additional information by making several filings, most recently on Sept. 5 and Sept. 22.

We are currently reviewing this information to see if it demonstrates either that a new facility cannot be built downtown or that it will cost more to build a new facility downtown. Please keep in mind that, as elected officials of Hagerstown, we have the responsibility to our citizens to question the information provided in the hospital's application and to voice our concerns.

The city's ultimate goal is to be a partner with the hospital in developing a regional medical center that will adequately serve our community's health needs and support the revitalization of Hagerstown. The discussion over the best location for the new facility is not about the city's or the hospital's winning or losing. It is about doing what is best for our citizens. I am confident that, in the end, the city and the hospital will come together to serve the community whose interests we jointly represent.

William M. Breichner is mayor of the City of Hagerstown.

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