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Affordable hospital is dependent on fast action

November 19, 2005|By James Hamill

When will be the best time to build a new hospital for the residents of our community, if not now? Now is the time to move the hospital forward for the sake of all who want a modern, state-of-the-art health care facility.

On Nov. 21, Washington County Hospital will present to the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals its case for a new hospital at Robinwood Medical Center. As we go forward, we have two critical steps behind us.

Two state regulatory agencies have already given their consent. They believe Robinwood is the best and most cost-effective site for the new hospital. The Maryland Health Care Commission granted us a Certificate of Need, showing its support for a new hospital. The Health Services Cost Review Commission granted us a 4.7 percent rate increase to help pay for the hospital.

Now, we are taking the next step in the process. We are asking the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for its approval to develop the new hospital at Robinwood Medical Center. Specifically, we are requesting a modification of the special exception granted in 1991 to allow lot line variances so that the new hospital can connect directly to Robinwood Medical Center. Also, we are seeking to modify the height of the building, as well as to allow ambulances and helicopters.

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There is an increasing sense of urgency as we progress. Currently, Washington County Hospital is the lowest-cost hospital in Maryland - 48th out of 48 hospitals. Even with the rate increase, we will still remain around the 45th or 46th lowest-cost hospital.

But, every day that we delay getting the shovel in the ground, the cost of building a new hospital increases. In the past, we have experienced costly delays. Currently, we are facing additional increases in costs that are not within our control.

According to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction costs climbed about 11 percent from September 2004 to September 2005. For example, the cost of steel has increased as demands for it have risen around the globe. Fuel prices increased in the wake of this year's devastating hurricanes.

We need to move quickly to keep the cost of the new hospital at the rate granted in the Certificate of Need. Timely approval by the BZA of our request will be a positive step toward containing the costs, as much as possible.

We will be presenting our case for Robinwood as the site for the new hospital. We believe there are many merits to this location. They include:

Co-location of the hospital with the medical center will take advantage of shared resources for both our patients and for physicians;

A state-of-the-art medical campus will attract more physicians and other health care providers who want to work in a setting that is patient-focused and houses advanced medical technologies;

A new hospital at Robinwood will keep patients close to home, where friends and family can support them.

The location provides for easier access and better parking accommodations.

Flexibility of the facility location can accommodate future needs and technology.

The time to move the new hospital another step in the right direction is now - to keep the costs of construction as low as possible.

I am asking everyone in this community to support the new hospital at Robinwood because it is critical to the health of your family and the well-being of our community as a whole.

James P. Hamill is president and CEO of Washington County Hospital.

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