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Hospital tries to quiet city's voice

October 29, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Hospital on Tuesday took an action which, if successful, would block the amount of feedback the Hagerstown City Council would have about a plan to build a new hospital outside the city.

The action came a day after the council and Washington County Health System met to discuss the city's questions about the plan to move the hospital from its Antietam Street location in Hagerstown to land next to Robinwood Medical Center on Robinwood Drive. The health system is the hospital's parent company.

The council has asked the Maryland Health Care Commission to deny the Washington County Hospital Association's request for a certificate of need, a document it needs to build a new hospital.

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An attorney representing the hospital on Tuesday filed a five-page motion with the health-care commission asking that the city not be considered an "interested party."

If the health-care commission grants the hospital's motion, it would not have to consider the city's written comments and questions about the proposed move, Hagerstown Finance Director Al Martin said.

The city disagrees and will file a reply, he said.

The city has submitted questions to the commission that it wanted asked of the hospital.

James Hamill, hospital president and chief executive officer, said Tuesday night that the motion was written prior to the Monday meeting. The hospital had hoped the two parties would reach an agreement, making the filing unnecessary, but that didn't happen, he said.

Hamill said he sent a letter to Mayor William M. Breichner explaining the hospital's action but Breichner said he had not received it.

"He feels like we don't have a dog in the fight," Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said of the filing.

"I guess we will see how this plays out on the state level," Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said during Tuesday's meeting.

Aleshire reiterated Tuesday that the city would be "negligent" if it did not push the hospital to answer questions about the affordability and accessibility of the proposed site.

City and hospital officials agree the hospital needs a new building, but the city is not convinced Robinwood is the most accessible, affordable site, Breichner said. If the Health Care Commission decides Robinwood is the best site, then the city will support it, he said.

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