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Hospital gets state's OK to move

June 17, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

Washington County Hospital officials have received approval from a state commission to move forward with plans to build a replacement facility.

James P. Hamill, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, said he will seek an agreement with the City of Hagerstown to annex the property where the new hospital will be built.

According to Hamill, the hospital could break ground for the new facility as early as November.

The Maryland Health Care Commission voted Thursday to approve hospital administrators' certificate of need to move the hospital from its East Antietam Street buildings to a new complex about three miles away near Robinwood Medical Center.

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The certificate of need is a comprehensive plan of the projected costs and design and services of the proposed facility.

Some City Council members Thursday voiced reservations about the project and possible annexation.

"I said at that time I will not give it, and I will not give it," Councilwoman Penny May Nigh said of annexation approval after the meeting in Baltimore.

Hamill announced in November 2001 the hospital planned to look into building a new facility.

It filed its first certificate of need in June 2003, but withdrew the request in May 2004 after the Maryland Health Care Commission cited flaws in its financing plan.

Costs for the project continue to rise, Hamill said. He estimated Thursday that the 267-bed facility would cost $235 million.

Hamill said the hospital wants to move quickly with construction, which could take 30 months.

"We need to come to an annexation agreement, and the city needs to execute it," Hamill said outside the commission offices after the meeting.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said even though the commission has given its approval for the project, he does not believe questions about roads, sewer and infrastructure around the proposed site have been addressed.

He said he does not support annexation.

"No. Not in the manner that they've asked, no way," Aleshire said by telephone.

Aleshire said he is unsatisfied with how the hospital has presented its case.

"Everybody better start being on the level with everybody before they get me to the table for concessions," Aleshire said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson both said they have not decided whether they would approve annexation, if the hospital asked.

Metzner said he is glad the hospital received approval for the project.

Councilwoman Kelly Cromer said hospital, city and county officials still must meet to resolve their differences.

"I think everyone needs to sit down and discuss it, and that just hasn't happened yet, but that's what I would like to see," Cromer said.

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