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Hospital, city talking again, and that's good

April 25, 2004|by LIZ THOMPSON

Washington County Hospital officials and the Hagerstown City Council say they will meet Monday, the first such serious sit-down since October.

That is excellent news.

You can't resolve problems if you aren't talking about them.

Washington County Health System, which owns and operates the hospital, plans to build a new hospital on property near Robinwood Medical Center. City officials have said they want the hospital to remain in the downtown area.

When the hospital filed required paperwork with state agencies to accomplish the move, the city hired consultants to dispute the application. That move cost the city - and more importantly, the taxpayers - more than $280,000.

Sitting down to talk costs nothing but time, and time is what the taxpayers want from their elected government.

The Herald-Mail has taken the issue of the hospital's proposed relocation very seriously. The newspaper has had dozens and dozens of stories about this issue.

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Many of those stories were entered into the 2003 Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association newspaper contest under the category of "Public Service." The entry won first place.

The judges said of the stories: "The Herald-Mail was all over this issue. The location of the new hospital obviously was important to the community and the newspaper gave readers valuable information and insight into a decision that would have long-term effects."

Six reporters and editors took part in the hospital stories entered into the MDDC contest. Those stories were written in 2003. Since then, even more stories have been written and more reporters have had a hand in producing those stories.

Why? Because it is an important issue, one that now stands a better chance of being resolved in the best possible way for city residents and others who will make use of the health care Washington County Hospital will provide regardless of where the physical building is located.

Under the heading of "never satisfied," I will admit I wish the meeting between city and hospital officials was open.

It is not.

Mayor William M. Breichner said the council and hospital will meet in closed session under the business negotiations provision of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

Hopefully, the city and the hospital will continue their discussions beyond this first meeting and hopefully, those discussions will take place in the open.

In the meantime, this is a positive step in the right direction.




In other matters, I cannot let a primary election approach without encouraging people to vote.

The primary election in Pennsylvania is Tuesday. Voters in Franklin and Fulton counties should set the bar for election turnout for the rest of the state.

Set that bar high. Vote.

It takes but a few minutes to take part in the political process. Honestly, it takes longer to fill your car with gas. We do that regularly, even though lately it's a pretty painful thing to do.

We vote, on average, every two years. It costs nothing but the time it takes to go to the polling site. Once there, it takes but a few minutes to fill out the ballot.

It is so easy, it's a wonder more people don't do it.

Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682, or by e-mail at lizt@herald-mail.com.

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