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State agency, not local officials, decides number of beds new hospital has and if a second one is needed

February 09, 2007|by Maureen Theriault

Two important issues about health care planning have been raised in conversations around Washington County in the last month or so. One is why the replacement hospital at Robinwood Medical Center will have fewer beds than the current hospital. The other is why don't we have a hospital downtown in addition to the one at Robinwood since the county's population is growing.

First, the new hospital will be licensed for four fewer beds than the present hospital - down from 271 to 267. In comparing what we have now with what we will have at Robinwood, the breakout looks like this

While we requested a 300-bed facility, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) determined that we would have 267. This is not the handicap that it might seem at first look because all the beds are in single-patient rooms.

We will have much greater flexibility than we have in our current two-patient rooms. For example, now if we need a bed for a female admission and the only opening is in a male patient's room, we need to transfer patients around to open a room or wait for an opening in a female patient's room. Another example of the inefficiency of the two-bed room is when a patient has an infection. In many instances, we cannot put another patient in that room. So, that ties up a bed for patients waiting to be admitted.

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Because of this increased flexibility in bed assignments, patients admitted from the emergency department should have shorter wait times. That will in turn free up stretchers in the emergency room and decrease wait times for emergency department patients as well.

Second, what about the need for an additional hospital? Building another hospital would require going through another Certificate of Need process through the MHCC. One of the first items MHCC would consider is the number of acute-care beds currently in our community. It uses a formula to determine the number of hospital beds needed. At this time, according to that formula, additional beds are not needed in Washington County. If beds were needed in the future, the replacement hospital at Robinwood is designed for additional bed capacity. In one of our towers, the fifth floor will be shelled in as a place to add more beds later on. It is more efficient to build that space now than to build it five years from now.

There has been a lot of thoughtful planning in how to bring the very best in health care to our community. While there may be four fewer beds in the new facility, the improved efficiencies of single-patients rooms will benefit regularly admitted patients as well as those who come through the emergency department.

Maureen Theriault is public relations director of Washington County Hospital

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