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Health system responds to city's hospital list

July 10, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Within a few days of being handed a list of 17 items titled "City of Hagerstown Requirements for Relocation of Hospital to the Robinwood Site," Washington County Health System officials said they were incredulous at the proposals.

Health System President and Chief Executive Officer James Hamill on May 13 called some of the ideas "ludicrous" and "bizarre" during an interview.

On June 30, health system officials sent the city responses to all but one of the 17 items. The last item, hospital officials said, was less of a requirement than a statement that the city would support the hospital's efforts once they reach agreement.

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Only one response appeared to be in outright agreement with the city's requests: Hospital officials said they would continue to provide transportation for senior citizens. Several responses said the city's requests would likely go unfulfilled due to financial constraints of the health system, which is a nonprofit organization.

One of the city's so-called "requirements" included the hospital helping to pay for the construction of a new bridge over Antietam Creek to provide access from Professional Court off Eastern Boulevard.

The hospital's response was that the bridge is "not necessary to support the new hospital ... (and) the Health System could not participate."

Another of the city's requests was that the hospital partner with local churches to buy the Holiday Motel on North Prospect Street, demolish it and build a parking lot to serve the H.W. Murphy Community Health Center at Walnut Street, which the health system also operates.

The hospital's response, in part, was that particular idea "is not related in form or substance to the development of a new Hospital at Robinwood. Adding such an expense ... cannot be justified."

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner, who believes the hospital's current East Antietam Street location is the most logical for the hospital, said Friday that he was not surprised by the hospital's responses, but he is concerned about access to the proposed site.

"When you're talking about routes to the proposed site, what we have there does not make good sense as far as access is concerned," Breichner said. He said an Antietam Creek bridge would help solve some of the problems.

Breichner said city officials are looking over the rest of the hospital's responses before forming their own response to the hospital.

Raymond Grahe, the health system's top financial officer, was asked Friday if he was worried about the city's possible responses. Grahe said, "I look forward to working with the city to an appropriate resolution that is a win-win for both sides."

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