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Hospital lawyer criticizes city's stand against move

January 04, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The continuing dispute over where a new hospital should be built in Washington County took an ugly turn recently when a lawyer for the hospital attacked the City of Hagerstown's arguments and the work of City Engineer Rodney Tissue.

Hagerstown's government is guilty of "distorting and ignoring information," Jack Tranter of Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLC of Baltimore, attorneys for the Washington County Hospital Association, wrote Dec. 19 to the Maryland Health Care Commission. The association is the hospital's parent company.

Tranter criticizes comments by Tissue, suggesting that all proposals he offers should be dismissed instantly because he is not qualified to design a hospital.

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"Unlike the city, which proposes alternatives without any architectural input whatsoever, relying instead on the city engineer, WCH obtained input from numerous 'outside' experts throughout the two-year decision-making process, including architects, health planner, engineers and others," Tranter wrote.

Using paid consultants, the City Council has asked the Health Care Commission to deny the association's request for a certificate of need, a document the hospital must have to move the hospital from Antietam Street in Hagerstown to Robinwood Medical Center on Robinwood Drive.

City and hospital officials have agreed the hospital needs a new building, but the city is not convinced Robinwood is the most accessible, affordable site.

In filings with the commission, the city has raised multiple arguments about the hospital's proposal for the new facility, saying that sites near or adjacent to the existing site would be better and less expensive.

"None of the city's claims have merit," Tranter wrote in response.

Asked about Tranter's criticism, Tissue said he does not want to make any comments, beyond a general statement from city spokeswoman Karen Giffin.

"City Engineer Rodney Tissue, along with other city staff, our attorneys and hospital experts, prepared the conceptual drawings," Giffin said. "The city was not attempting to design a hospital; however, we were providing alternative locations within the City of Hagerstown. These locations are viable alternatives, and the city would encourage the Maryland Heath Care Commission to accept that there are other viable locations."

Hospital officials were unavailable for comment Friday, a spokeswoman said.

In the filing, Tranter also says the city "completely overlooks the benefits associated with the Robinwood site including, of course, enough land to deal with future expansion. While the city may minimize this claim, it is precisely this lack of foresight in choosing the current site many years ago that makes constructing a new hospital adjacent to the existing site problematic and unwise."

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