Delay expensive for hospital

June 14, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - 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.


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.

Appeals court hears hospital case

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Tuesday heard a challenge to a local judge's decision that let Washington County Hospital move forward with its relocation plans.

A group of residents near the hospital's proposed Robinwood Drive location appealed an August 2006 decision by Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III that affirmed zoning variances for the new hospital.

Three judges spent 40 minutes on Tuesday listening to testimony from both sides, said William C. Wantz, attorney for the appellants.

A decision in the case could take up to a year.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: Washington County Hospital has spent millions of dollars on improvements at its Antietam Street facility while it waits to move to a new building off Robinwood Drive.

What happened: The hospital was scheduled to move to Robinwood Drive in September 2006, but has been delayed by a court battle with residents near its new location. In the meantime, hospital officials said they have spent nearly $3 million on repairs and upgrades at the current facility.

What's next: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis heard an appeal from opponents of the hospital's relocation on Tuesday. A decision could take up to a year.

The Herald-Mail Articles