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Hospital services include special-care nursery

September 24, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Health care services are available in Washington County even to those who do not have an insurance card stashed in their wallets and to babies who enter the world a little earlier than expected.

Washington County has a full-service hospital, numerous specialists and clinics for those with inadequate or no health insurance.

Washington County Hospital and its for-profit partnership provide an estimated 40 percent of the county's health care, said Mary R. Towe, vice president and chief nursing officer at the hospital.

The hospital, a 243-bed facility, has about 19,000 admissions a year and serves nearly 7,000 people in the emergency room. Another 1,000 or so patients are seen in the level 3 trauma center and more than 1,900 babies are born at the hospital every year, Towe said.

The hospital provides full surgical care, critical care, obstetrician services, psychiatric services and ambulatory surgery. It also has a full-service cancer treatment center.

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One of the newer units is a special-care nursery that serves babies born prematurely - between 32 and 36 weeks; before, such babies had to be taken to Washington, D.C., or Baltimore for the care they require, Towe said.

The hospital also has a full-service endocrinology center.

Recently the hospital acquired a fixed PET CT scanner. A 64-slice scanner, the CT scanner is an upgrade from a 16-slice scanner and allows smaller abnormalities to be detected, Towe said.

About a year ago, the hospital started a "hospitalist" program, in which doctors are hired by the hospital and are on staff 24 hours a day. Having a hospitalist available at all times speeds up patients' visits and allows family physicians to spend more time in their offices with patients, Towe said.

Two Urgent Care centers, one on Pennsylvania Avenue and the other at Robinwood Medical Center, are operated by the hospital. An alternative to going to the emergency room, the Urgent Care centers are designed for those who need to see a doctor but are not able to make appointments with their family physicians.

The hospital's Healthline is a free, online referral service through which people can find doctors in a variety of specialties. More than 300 doctors are listed, and searches can be done by specialty, practice or physician name.

Now in Hagerstown, the hospital plans to move just outside of town to its Robinwood campus. It has received a certificate of need from the state for a 276-bed facility.

The new hospital is expected to open in the spring or summer of 2009, Towe said.

If you lack insurance

Two health clinics in Hagerstown specialize in serving patients who are underinsured or who have no health insurance.

The Community Free Clinic and the Walnut Street Community Health Center - which are separate organizations - each serves thousands of people without insurance.

The Walnut Street clinic targets the low-income population, said Executive Director Kim Murdaugh.

The clinic is expected to have more than 20,000 patient visits this year. Last year it served more than 4,000 patients via more than 18,000 visits, Murdaugh said.

A nonprofit organization, the center is federally funded and provides services on an income-based sliding scale. Patients receive care regardless of their ability to pay.

The clinic offers family practice services and podiatry services, a pharmacy program and has doctors on-call after hours. It has a dental clinic that provides preventive care, restorative care, dentures and extractions.

The center - which operated under the auspices of the hospital until it became private in July 2003 - also helps with transportation, food, housing and other nonmedical needs.

It's estimated that 17 percent of the county's residents do not have health insurance, according to information from the Community Free Clinic.

The Community Free Clinic serves any Hagerstown or Washington County resident who does not have insurance.

On Mill Street, the clinic provides medical care, laboratory services and prescriptions. It opened in 1990 and moved to its current building in 2004. It averages 15,000 patient visits a year.

Health care-related services also are offered by the Health Department.

They include immunizations for adults and children; Pap tests and clinical breast exams; provisions for mammograms and colon cancer screenings; prostate cancer screenings; emergency tooth extractions; testing and counseling for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; tuberculosis screenings and treatment; pregnancy testing; birth-control services for teenage students; and Stop Smoking programs.

Some of the Health Department's services are free, some have income or insurance guidelines.

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