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Health system seeks information on remarks by city councilman

July 17, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Legal counsel for Washington County Health System this week sent Hagerstown City Councilman N. Linn Hendershot a request for further information after he was quoted saying health system officials provided "cooked numbers."

Reached Friday evening, Hendershot said he received the letter at his office Thursday. He said the letter was a "request for an explanation" of his comments within five days.

The letter also said Hendershot's response would be used to "decide the remedies available," the councilman said.

The comments in question came during Tuesday night's council work session at City Hall. The discussion topic was Washington County Hospital's proposed relocation to a site near Robinwood Medical Center, and a new group that has postured itself in support of that move.

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Washington County Health System owns and operates the hospital.

Health system spokeswoman Maureen Theriault confirmed the letter Friday evening, and said health system legal staff sent the letter at the prompting of the health system's board of directors.

Theriault said the directors had asked their legal counsel to "do due diligence on the allegations that Mr. Hendershot made apparently in the City Council meeting ... that (were) quoted in the paper Wednesday."

The July 14 story in The Herald-Mail reads in part, "'We're looking at some cooked numbers' from the hospital ...' Hendershot said."

Hendershot confirmed Friday that he was discussing financial numbers provided by the hospital to the Hagerstown-Washington County Community Healthcare Coalition, which is in support of the hospital's move.

"I was referring to the numbers that were being used by the coalition and felt that they were being inflated," Hendershot said.

The coalition has distributed information that says the City of Hagerstown would benefit financially from tax revenues gained in one scenario involving the hospital's move.

That scenario includes the annexation of the hospital's proposed site and a neighboring housing development that still is in the planning stages. The scenario also includes razing the hospital's current buildings along East Antietam Street and constructing market-rate housing in place of the old hospital.

Hendershot said Friday that scenario could take seven to 12 years to complete, but according to the numbers provided by the hospital through the coalition, "the money would be in the bank tomorrow. And unfortunately, that's not the way it works."

Hendershot said he forwarded the letter to the city attorney's office, but the letter represents "the sensitivity" on the hospital issue for both hospital and city officials.

"These things have gotten so sensitive that every word that lands, someone tries to make something up. This is a great example," Hendershot said.

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