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Chamber backs plan to build a new hospital

October 05, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce said Monday it was backing a plan to build a new hospital at a site off Robinwood Drive, outside of Hagerstown.

The announcement comes about 16 months after the group opted to support the application for a certificate of need but did not back a specific site for a new facility.

In a letter signed by Edward H. Lough, chairman of the Chamber's board of directors, the group supported the certificate-of-need application and urged the Maryland Heath Care Commission to approve it quickly.

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"Any impediment that needlessly delays the new hospital's construction works against the interest of our community and wastes valuable resources," the letter states.

Lough said the decision was made Monday afternoon, following separate presentations by officials from Washington County Health System and the City of Hagerstown.

The decision to support the health system's proposed site off Robinwood Drive for a new hospital was made for reasons including the lower cost of building a new facility as opposed to renovating the existing hospital in Hagerstown; upgrades to be provided by a new hospital to care for cardiac patients and babies who are born prematurely; and the site's proximity to Interstate 70, Lough said.

Lough said he did not lead discussions Monday because he also is one of the chairmen of the Washington County Community Healthcare Coalition.

Lough said Monday he believes city officials did, "what they thought they needed to do," but should now try to assist in the building of the new hospital.

"It's time for everyone to become part of the solution," he said.

In August, Lough was one of three authors who, in a letter to the editor, said the city was making ridiculous demands on the health system.

Chamber President Brien J. Poffenberger said James Hamill, president and CEO of the health system and a member of the Chamber's board of directors, did not participate in the group's deliberations and decision on the hospital.

The health system, which owns and operates the hospital, in May withdrew from state review the paperwork necessary to obtain a certificate of need and begin construction near Robinwood Drive. The health system submitted new paperwork in September.

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

City officials approved hiring legal and health-care consultants to dispute claims made by hospital officials last year in their original submission.

The city spent nearly $300,000 on the consulting fees related to the dispute.

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