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Hospital getting free ride on tough questions

October 23, 2005|By J. Michael Nye

To the editor:

Dr. Kothari's Oct. 2 letter, "Build the hospital," continues the a policy of distracting the public away from the real debate on this issue. Clearly we need a new or upgraded hospital, no one that I know disputes that.

The argument is and always has been to upgrade the existing facility ($90 million) or to build a new facility that we can afford. The debate has always been about why does it need to be at Robinwood ($233 million and growing).

This site is the most expensive option at the worst possible location causing the greatest negative impact on the surrounding residential community. Huge infrastructure investments will be needed to make the site workable, which will be in addition to the cost of the hospital. County residents will pay for all of this.

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Kothari makes outlandish and unsubstantiated claims of budget creep of $70 million caused by "obstructions" and estimates that an additional $30 million will be spent on maintaining the current facility beyond what was planned by the hospital management.

Did he get his numbers from the hospital? Wow, does this mean that the budget has creeped up another $100 million? Is the budget now $233,276,624 (Certificate of Need-approved budget) plus $70 million (obstructions?) plus $30 million (maintaining current facility?) for a total of $333,276,624?

How can we have any confidence in anything the hospital tells us about how much it will cost to move to Robinwood?

If there is a significant change in the budget, shouldn't that require a new CON process? I hope that someone (perhaps the newspaper) will demand that Kothari disclose were he got his numbers.

The secrecy surrounding this subject is the reason why the hospital is having trouble "selling" this project to the public. Misinformation and lack of careful planning is the reason why it is way behind schedule and suffering budget creep - not because of the city concerns or a looming zoning battle.

The zoning request should have been the first step in this process, not the last. This suggests that they predicted a problem with zoning because of the special exemption that allowed the medical campus to be built also precluded moving the hospital there.

The reason why the hospital is getting away with this policy of blaming others for their problems is because we have no way to publicly confront them with many of their ridiculous statements. Normally, a local newspaper would want to regularly report on this project to keep the public aware of developments, while at the same time keeping the hospital honest about what they do and say.

This is undoubtedly the largest publicly financed project in the history of Washington County, and the newspaper has not, as far as I know, assigned a specific reporter to regularly research and report on stories related to this subject.

Meanwhile, and to its credit, the Hagerstown City Council has not supported moving the hospital and the Washington County Commissioners have not taken a vote, as yet, in support of this move to Robinwood.

Consequently, the hospital can issue unvetted press releases and use proxy letter writers that are reported without any balanced analysis.

This situation has not helped hospital officials by demanding that they be accurate in their statements. If and when the newspaper starts this kind of coverage, I believe the hospital will do a better job of reporting things. This will help them in the long run.

J. Michael Nye
Hagerstown

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