Officials to resubmit plans for Robinwood hospital site

September 11, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Months of inaction on plans to move Washington County Hospital are set to end Monday, the hospital's top administrator said Friday.

The moves, however, only restart a complex review process that officials expect to last several months.

Washington County Health System, which owns and operates the hospital, in May withdrew from state review the paperwork necessary to begin construction near Robinwood Drive.

That paperwork - the application for a certificate of need to move - is reviewed by the Maryland Health Care Commission and is a detailed plan on the services the new hospital would provide, the projected costs to build the new hospital, and information on hospital finances and the types of patients the hospital treats.


A Maryland Health Care Commission official told hospital officials that the original application likely would not gain approval, mainly because of a financing plan that did not meet state standards.

James Hamill, health system president and CEO, said in an interview Friday that the plans to be submitted Monday reflect a change in the financing plan, but "the core document is essentially unchanged."

The hospital will have to raise patient rates between 5 percent and 6 percent to pay for the construction, Hamill said.

Hamill released some other details about the document, but declined to release the full document because, he said, the document is not a public document until it has been reviewed for completeness.

Hamill said if the application is deemed complete, it would become public once it officially is docketed on the Health Care Commission's review schedule.

Hamill said the application will reflect an increase in construction cost - from $165 million to $175 million - that he said mainly was due to a combination of rising fuel, concrete and copper prices.

Hamill said including the cost of financing, the project will cost $233 million.

While one representative of a group formed to support the hospital's move applauded the action, Hagerstown's mayor said he would have to wait to see the new documents before he could say if it satisfies the city's concerns.

James Latimer, one of the co-founders of the Hagerstown-Washington County Community Healthcare Coalition, formed to voice support the hospital's move, said the group "is very happy ... We hope the state will act quickly."

"This project is sorely needed within our community," Latimer said.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner, who believes the hospital is better off staying on East Antietam Street, said "there are still a number of issues that have to be settled" outside the application.

Breichner wouldn't say if the city again would spend money to hire experts to dispute the application - it spent about $300,000 during the hospital's first application - but, he said, "I think we have an obligation to our citizens to take a look at that application."

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