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Hospital meeting Oct. 19 a chance to get informed

October 14, 2005

Next Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., the Washington County Health System will hold a meeting to allow citizens to ask questions and air their concerns about the proposed new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center.

Because this event will not be televised, we urge everyone who has an interest in this proposal - and health care in Washington County - to attend.

The decision to pursue the idea of a new hospital was announced in November 2001 by James Hamill, president and CEO of the Washington County Health System. It was the beginning of bumpy ride for the project.

A year later, hospital officials announced that they had chosen the Robinwood site. In June of 2003, hospital officials filed the first certificate of need (CON) application for the $187 million project with the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC).

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A month later, the City of Hagerstown hired outside experts to review and possibly dispute the application. By April of 2004, the city had spent almost $300,000 for that purpose.

In May 2004, MHCC revealed some problems with the CON application, including a financing plan that didn't meet state standards.

The hospital withdrew its application and resubmitted a revised version in September 2004. MHCC approved it on June 16 of this year The project's cost had risen to $235 million.

In November 2004, hospital officials asked the city to annex the hospital site and the Mount Aetna Farms development, saying it would provide $26 million for infrastructure improvements. The city said no.

Past disputes over this project shouldn't keep the public from seeking the answers to two key questions, including:

· How will having a new hospital affect patients' costs and the quality of care they receive?

· Now that the state has announced some possible delays in improvement projects along U.S. 40, will emergency vehicles be able to get to the new hospital during rush hour?

Other issues remain, including sewer service, but as long as the project provides affordable, accessible, high-quality health care for the community, we will continue to support it.

The session will be held in Suite 142 at the Robinwood Medical Center. Attendees should use the blue or silver entrance.

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