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Plans continue as tale of two hospitals unfolds

November 15, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - The much-debated hospital off Robinwood Drive is anticipated to open in January 2009.

Washington County Health System officials estimate the approximately 500,000-square-foot facility will cost $255 million.

Plans for the existing hospital downtown remain up in the air, said James Hamill, president and chief executive officer of the health system. Hamill said it's unlikely the health system will have a hand in redeveloping the existing hospital.

Hamill and Raymond Grahe, vice president of finance for the health system, updated the Washington County Commissioners on the project's status Tuesday.

The hospital, part of which will connect to Robinwood Medical Center, will have a larger emergency room area and 267 beds, nine fewer than the current hospital.

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Officials said they expect to break ground for the new facility in January.

"This project is critical to the community," Hamill said. "We haven't even begun to calculate the economic benefit."

Michael Thompson, county planning director, said staff is almost finished reviewing the hospital's plans, which were approved by the Planning Commission.

Thompson said he would be signing off on the plans "shortly."

"This is a very, very large project, both physically and economically, for Washington County," County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said. "We're ready to go."

Hamill said he anticipates a seamless transition in patient care to the new hospital.

"What's going to happen to the old hospital?" Commissioner John C. Munson asked.

Hamill said the health system had budgeted $3 million for the existing hospital's demolition.

"We did not want to leave an eyesore behind," Hamill said.

Since then, some interest has been shown in redeveloping the site, so Hamill said he is not exactly sure what the future holds for the location. He said the health system wasn't worrying about that at this time.

Hamill said it's likely the health system probably "will have no part of the redevelopment of that site."

He said the focus is on getting construction of the new hospital under way.

Plans for the new hospital have been entangled in legal challenges from residents and criticism from the City of Hagerstown.

The last piece of a legal challenge was settled in October after a county circuit judge upheld zoning variances approved by Washington County.

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