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Presentation touts benefits of proposed hospital

July 17, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - In a video shown Friday to a group of would-be supporters of a new Washington County Hospital, viewers learned about the plight of the VanMetre family.

Kimberly VanMetre, 29, of Hagerstown, explains that her son Chase had to be taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after complications during his birth last December. The family had to travel from Hagerstown to Baltimore to visit Chase, a problem the video's narrator labels as "traumatic separation."

The video heralds plans to build a special care nursery in the proposed hospital that would provide the type of medical assistance Chase needed, and VanMetre tells viewers, "We're glad that, finally, someone has recognized the need for it."

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The video was part of a broader presentation on Friday touting the benefits of a proposed hospital that would be built near Robinwood Medical Center.

About 70 business, labor and religious leaders, nurses, doctors, public officials and patients came to hear what the Hagerstown-Washington County Community Healthcare Coalition's organizers had to say about the proposed move at the coalition's first public event.

Several speakers alluded to continued criticism of the proposed move from Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and City Council members. The Rev. Dean Pryor of Hagerstown Grace Brethren Church even called on a higher power to "lead the mayor and council" in the right direction.

James Latimer, one of the co-founders of the coalition, said after the presentation that the purpose of forming the group is to try to sway state regulators toward approving plans for the hospital through letter-writing campaigns and meetings with public officials.

Points made by the video and presenters did not fall on deaf ears when one regular hospital visitor saw it.

Stacey Chaney, 39, of Falling Waters, W.Va., came to Robinwood Medical Center to sign her name to join the coalition. Hers was among more than three dozen names of people who signed lists Friday to join the group's efforts. The coalition also claims another 70 people and local organizations as members.

Chaney said she is a mother of three, and all of them have been treated at Washington County Hospital.

Like Kim VanMetre, Chaney said when her oldest son was about 6 months old, he had an ear infection that needed to be treated at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"I know what it's like going to D.C. at 5 a.m., trying to find a hotel room, trying to find a place to stay," Chaney said.

Chaney said she came to the presentation Friday because "it's just very concerning to me. We need to start thinking as a region" when it comes to health care.

Neither Breichner nor any of the City Council members were present at the meeting, including Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, who said he asked to join the group earlier this week.

Aleshire, who's name was not included in the printed list of people who joined the group, on Friday criticized The Herald-Mail and the coalition's methods in distributing information, while admitting the city has been slow to put out some information.

In a phone conversation with a reporter, he said that reporter and his editors "failed the public" by recently not publishing 2-year-old reports about the decision on where to place the hospital, but his request to put those same reports on the city's Web site have stalled because city officials are "still reviewing" whether they can post that information.

In regards to the coalition, he cautioned new members, saying the group's leaders have not "taken the time to educate themselves on the issue" and are "putting out information in an inaccurate manner."

Aleshire said the coalition has not proved that the Robinwood site for the hospital is the most cost-effective.

Councilwoman Carol N. Moller said Friday she's not concerned with the support the group has gained, and said hospital officials still should seek a special exception needed to the zoning rules through the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals.

"I want them to hear from the people (who live) where they are putting the hospital," Moller said. "That's all I want."

Breichner said he was not concerned about the list of supporters, and said he continues to believe that the best site for the hospital is where it is on East Antietam Street.

"It says that the rich don't mind paying additional health (care) cost," Breichner said. He said elderly, disabled and those who live in the city will be "disenfranchised" by the move.

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