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City argues for role in decision on hospital move

November 15, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council has filed a response to a Washington County Hospital motion that would reduce the city's role in a state process involving the hospital's planned relocation.

The council has asked the Maryland Health Care Commission to deny the Washington County Hospital Association's request for a certificate of need. The document is needed to move the hospital from Antietam Street in Hagerstown to land next to Robinwood Medical Center on Robinwood Drive.

On Oct. 28, an attorney representing the hospital filed a five-page motion with the Health Care Commission asking that the city not be considered an interested party.

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The response, filed Wednesday, argues that the city is deserves interested party status, which would give it more standing to dispute decisions and comments by the commission.

As an interested party, the city would be sent a proposed commission decision before it is official and would have a chance to formally object to the decision, Pamela W. Barclay, deputy director of the Maryland Health Care Commission, said Friday.

The hospital wrote in its filing, "In light of the city's misperception that it qualifies for and has been granted interested party status, WCH asks the commission to determine that the city does not qualify for interested party status and may not be so designated."

The hospital filing also states that the city can't demonstrate it is adversely affected by the planned hospital move.

The city disagrees. If the hospital rates go up to pay for the move, the increase will affect the city in its capacity as a third-party payer of the medical expenses of its employees, it says in the filing. The city, in that capacity, paid just under $1 million to the hospital in the current fiscal year, it said.

The city also points out that it is the largest jurisdiction from which the hospital draws patients - at least 25 percent.

James Hamill, hospital president and chief executive officer, said Friday he had no comment.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and council members say they agree with the hospital that it needs a new complex, but the city is not convinced Robinwood is the most accessible, affordable site. If the Health Care Commission decides Robinwood is the best site, the city will support it, Breichner said.

The city has retained David Funk, a Baltimore lawyer, at $200 an hour, and Hal Cohen of Baltimore, an expert in the field, at $250 an hour to help it work with the commission.

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