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Hospital spends money as it waits to move

June 13, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Washington County Hospital has spent about $3 million on repairs and upgrades that could have been saved if its new hospital had been built on time, Washington County Hospital Vice President Mary R. Towe said.

The hospital has upgraded its emergency department, purchased monitoring equipment, and painted and refurbished rooms since September 2006, when it originally was scheduled to move from Antietam Street to a new building on Robinwood Drive. Court appeals challenging the hospital's right to build near Robinwood Medical Center have delayed the move.

"These are things that we have to do to keep up here that we'd rather not do," Towe said.

The hospital also plans to install power upgrades, wireless Internet and a second catheter lab at its Antietam Street facility. The upgrades are necessary, but cannot be transferred when the hospital moves.

"All of these things are already built into the new hospital," Towe said.

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The hospital's new facility, which last was estimated to cost $255 million, is planned for the campus of Robinwood Medical Center, but has faced a prolonged legal battle that has stalled the process. Opponents of the new hospital argue it will increase traffic and reduce the quality of life for residents in the area, and are fighting, in court, zoning variances that were approved to allow the hospital to move forward with its plans.

"The site for the medical center was zoned specifically not to allow a hospital," said William C. Wantz, attorney for the hospital's opponents, who filed an appeal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals that could take up to a year to be resolved.

In the meantime, the hospital must make improvements to remain competitive, Towe said.

"We are doing what we have to to survive," Towe said. "We're in an area with a lot of competition."

The emergency department upgrades, which cost approximately $250,000, were needed to keep up with Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals in Franklin County, which have new emergency departments with little or no waits, Towe said.

"Our patients are waiting too long and they are going other places," Towe said.

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