City asks hospital for concessions

May 06, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Washington County Health System officials are digesting a list of 17 requests given to them Monday during a closed meeting with Hagerstown city officials.

Hospital officials view the requests as conditions for the city to drop its opposition to the health system's plans to relocate Washington County Hospital from downtown Hagerstown to Robinwood Drive, outside city limits. City officials said that is not their intent.

Among the items the city is asking for are $350,000 annually to cover city services provided to the hospital, cash to help pay for a new downtown ambulance substation and establishment of a downtown urgent care center.


Asked his initial reaction to the requests, Health System President and Chief Executive Officer James Hamill said, "It was a long list."

Hamill said he believes it is important for health officials to consider the requests carefully in an effort to break the impasse over where to build a new hospital.

City officials said the requested items are negotiable and should be viewed as ideas to consider as part of a relocation plan.

"We're not holding this over anyone's head," Mayor William M. Breichner said.

He said the list represents things the hospital should consider beyond the requirements of the state-regulated application process, including county road extensions, zoning needs and utility connections.

One request, which reflects a long-standing concern of the mayor and council, is for hospital officials to gain proper zoning for the Robinwood site before it could be considered for annexation into the city.

Another asks that the health system - a nonprofit organization that does not pay taxes - give the city $350,000 a year as payment for city services such as police and fire protection.

A third request, which city officials consider a standard housekeeping matter, would require the hospital to pay for water and sewer connections at the new site, services that would be provided by the city.

"Some (items) are realistic, some of 'em aren't," Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said. He said the list "gives us something to discuss."

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he had reservations about several items on the list.

"There's just not enough detail to them," he said.

Hamill said the list of requests came after he sent a letter to the city last Thursday in response to questions that came up in an April 26 closed meeting.

In the letter, Hamill said the health system would assist in determining whether the hospital or nearby properties should be annexed into the city, and that it would seek a special exception from the county to allow the hospital to be built.

Hamill also wrote that the health system intends to provide an urgent care center "at or near the hospital's existing site" on East Antietam Street. While other future uses of the site are uncertain, the health system would discuss options including demolition.

Hamill said Wednesday that while "a large portion of the document (provided Monday) is not necessarily focused on the topic of the replacement regional medical center ... I think it's helpful to have gotten to this state."

"We're trying to find where we have common ground," Hamill said. "We're gonna put numbers to these things and see what it says to us."

The health system filed a request last year with state agencies for a certificate of need to move the hospital, which is owned and operated by the health system.

City officials have claimed the hospital's plans are faulty, and hired a law firm and two health care consultants to dispute the plans. Since last June, the city has spent more than $292,000.

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