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City files written concerns about hospital relocation plans

November 18, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown's written concerns and questions regarding the planned relocation of the Washington County Hospital were filed with the Maryland Health Care Commission on Monday.

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

The city is paying David Funk, a Baltimore lawyer, $200 an hour, and Hal Cohen of Baltimore, an expert in the field, $250 an hour to help in its dealings with the Health Care Commission.

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The Health Care Commission asked parties affected by the planned hospital relocation to submit comments in writing in response to the hospital's application for the certificate of need.

The city's filing said the project is "not feasible." It questions some projects and estimates made by the hospital in its application.

The filing also says "the project inappropriately diminishes access to care and materially adversely affects the ability of the Washington County Hospital to fulfill its charitable mission as a nonprofit hospital located in the city that provides care to the citizens of Washington County."

James Hamill, hospital president and chief executive officer, said through a spokeswoman that he would not comment on the city's filing until he reads the documents.

He previously said the location selected for a new hospital is the best one for the community, and was recommended by a search committee that included a representative of the city government.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and Hagerstown City Council members say they agree the hospital needs a new facility, but the city is not convinced Robinwood is the most accessible, affordable site. It appears to be one of the more expensive options considered, the filing says.

If the Health Care Commission decides Robinwood is the best site, the city will support it, Breichner said Monday.

Monday's filing is separate, although somewhat related, to the city's Oct. 12 filing responding to a hospital motion which, if successful, would reduce the city's role in the commission process.

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."

The Oct. 12 city filing responded to the motion with the argument that the city deserved "interested party" status, which would give the city more standing to dispute decisions and comments of the commission.

City residents account for only about 25 percent of the people the hospital serves, Hamill has said.

Council members have said they would be failing their constituents if they did not fight for what they think is best for city residents.

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