Time for the city to allow hospital to move forward

September 14, 2004

Now that officials of Washington County Hospital have decided to submit another application for a Certificate of Need for a new Robinwood facility, it's time for the City of Hagerstown to make a decision.

After nearly four months of delay, the city government must decide whether it will continue to oppose the plan, or accept a compromise to allow this important project to move forward.

The city government was at least open to a compromise in May when it offered a list of 17 requests to hospital officials.

Those items ranged from a reasonable request to provide "urgent care" services downtown to a ridiculous proposal that the hospital buy and demolish a downtown motel to create a parking lot.


The city and the hospital continue to negotiate on some of those items, including a proposal that the hospital build - or contribute substantially to - construction of a bridge across the Antietam Creek.

The issues of access, utility service and zoning are all legitimate, but the city government hasn't agreed to allow the project to move forward even if its concerns on all these issues were satisfied.

The Herald-Mail supports the move to Robinwood because that's where most of the doctors' offices are. Physicians making rounds would be able to go from their private offices to the hospital floor in minutes. Trauma surgeons could see private patients while on call without having to worry about travel time if an emergency occurred.

Our concern is that even if the hospital satisfies most of the city's concerns, some councilmembers will still hold out for the renovation of the existing facility. And the longer the holdout, the greater the chance that a rise in interest rates and the increased costs of building materials will add millions to the project.

The more costly the project, the more of that expense will be passed on to insurance companies and their policyholders and to local companies and government agencies.

We're already seeing double-digit increases in the yearly cost of health care. If anything, the city and hospital should be looking at ways to cut those costs instead of engaging in a battle that could eventually increase them.

It's time for the city government to declare its legitimate concerns - as opposed to the shopping list issued in May - and help get this project moving before the costs of continued delay start hitting local folks in their wallets.

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