For better health care the choice is obvious

September 19, 2004|by Jim Hamill

Recently, Washington County Health System resubmitted its application to the Maryland Health Care Commission to build a new hospital adjacent to the Robinwood Medical Center.

The health and well-being of the residents of our community depend on a modern, well-equipped hospital that can provide state-of-the-art care. Clearly, given the age of the current Washington County Hospital, we have to do something about a facility that has outlived its usefulness. We need to build a new hospital from the ground up.

Robinwood was selected after an exhaustive and detailed evaluation process of numerous potential sites, as well as the concept of expanding and renovating the existing hospital. After learning the facts, most people I have spoken to agree that Robinwood makes the most sense.

The hospital site-selection committee considered six goals and how well each of the options stacked up against the goals. They included:


· Maximizing patient safety and quality patient outcomes;

· maximizing accessibility to patients and the public;

· improving hospital efficiency and productivity;

· maximizing the effectiveness of existing health and related resources in the community;

· allowing flexibility for future growth; and

· completing the project in a timely fashion.

When it comes to maximizing patient safety and quality patient outcomes, Robinwood comes out a winner. Robinwood will have all single-patient rooms so patients will be moved around the hospital less frequently for tests and treatments. It also means they will be exposed to fewer germs while hospitalized.

Just as important, patients will be closer to their care givers at the nursing stations. Rather than having to serve patients at either end of a long, bowling-alley corridor, nurses will be only 20 steps or so away from their patients' bedsides.

There will be standardized patient care technology in each patient's room, improving the availability of important clinical equipment and monitoring devices. Due to the aging structure of the current hospital, it cannot be easily retrofitted for current medical technology.

Renovating the existing hospital doesn't meet this goal or improve patient care the way a new hospital would.

As we all know, the downtown hospital can hardly be considered an easily accessible site because of parking issues and the long hill you must climb to reach the hospital.

Robinwood is much more accessible since most patients arrive at the hospital by car. There will be plenty of parking for patients, visitors, physicians and staff at Robinwood.

Both renovating the present hospital and building a new hospital downtown would decrease accessibility to the current site during the period of construction. Nor would accessibility be improved, when construction is complete.

A new, modern hospital at Robinwood will be less expensive and more efficient to operate than the existing facility. Similar services will be grouped together to benefit patients and medical staff. For example, most admissions to the behavioral health unit come from the emergency department. At the new hospital, the two services will be located side-by-side.

Patients, the public and staff will all move in separate corridors within the hospital. Patients will be moved more efficiently with less travel time, less exposure to infection and with enhanced privacy.

Design features of the new hospital will bring greater efficiency to the day-to-day operations so that the long-term costs of operating the facility will be dramatically less than at a renovated, existing hospital.

Robinwood is where many of the doctors in our community have their private offices. It makes sense to put the hospital near where a significant majority of our friends and neighbors go to receive medical care. Many of the outpatient services that patients need, such as the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, are at Robinwood.

Robinwood is an ideal site because it has the room to expand and grow in the future if it is necessary to do so. Rebuilding the existing hospital doesn't preserve this option. Even building a new hospital next to the existing hospital doesn't preserve this option because the land is not readily available.

Building a new hospital on land already owned by the hospital is obviously something that can be done much more quickly than either renovating or expanding the current hospital or trying to assemble new land downtown for another hospital.

What about the cost? When you look at the numbers to build and operate a new hospital, Robinwood wins there as well. Consider these three options: Robinwood, renovating and expanding the existing hospital and building a new hospital adjacent to the downtown location.

The capital costs of constructing a new hospital at Robinwood are about $60 million less than building a new hospital in the downtown area near the existing hospital.

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