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Groups seeking legal standing on hospital issue

December 11, 2004|By GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

A local group of concerned citizens and one member of that group separately have requested quasi-legal standing with the state agency that is reviewing plans for Washington County Hospital's proposed move.

The moves to gain legal standing by seeking "interested party" status are the first to be sent to the Maryland Health Care Commission since a 30-day public comment started Dec. 12, although two other, larger organizations, including the City of Hagerstown, have indicated they would do the same.

Hospital officials are pushing plans to move the hospital from East Antietam Street to a site near Robinwood Medical Center, citing problems with outdated buildings at their current site. Included among the several official hurdles is Health Care Commission approval, without which plans cannot move forward.

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The deadline to seek interested party status is Monday. If the Health Care Commission accepts any interested parties into the case, it would almost certainly increase the amount of time the commission takes to render its decision, officials have said.

Hospital officials have said any delay means added costs to the project.

Jim Laird, president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County (CPWC), said his group voted last week to oppose the hospital's plans, and Friday, he sent the group's bid to join the hospital's case as an interested party.

"I think the probable concern for our members ... is the probable increase, the high cost of medical care due to" the plans near Robinwood, Laird said.

Laird said joining the case would give them better access to information. He said it's unlikely the group will need time to testify against the hospital, but they'd like that option.

J. Michael Nye, a county business owner and former Community Rescue Service executive director, is a member of CPWC, and joined in that group's vote last week, Laird said.

Nye, however, also sent his own intent to join as an interested party Friday as the president of his business, Marketing Logistics International. Nye said the company has two full-time employees and 12 to 15 part-time employees.

"I wanted an opportunity to be able to speak to the commission about my specific concerns," and the concerns of neighbors, Nye said. Among those concerns, he said, are the possible impact of the hospital and other developments on his neighborhood and rising health-care costs.

"This area is congested at best, now add an institution that is going to bring literally thousands of employee vehicles" and visitors, Nye said.

The City of Hagerstown decided last month to join as an interested party, but as of Friday afternoon had not filed. The city last month authorized spending $5,000 for an expert to review the filing, and Mayor William M. Breichner said the request would be delivered Monday.

A representative for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield also sent a letter in October requesting interested party status, but it was before the official comment period began and was not recorded as an official request, said Pamela Barclay, who is handling the review for the Health Care Commission. CareFirst had not submitted a follow-up request as of Friday.

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