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Hospital appeal dragging on

October 30, 2007

If everything had gone as planned, a new Washington County Hospital would be ready to open next to the Robinwood Medical Center.

That's what James P. Hamill, president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health System, said in a December 2002 interview.

Hamill is not making any predictions now that an attorney for a group of citizens who opposes the zoning there has announced that the challenge will continue.

On Oct. 15, the group filed for another reconsideration of the Court of Special Appeals' decision to reject their appeal.

Following the first request for reconsideration, the judges clarified their ruling to note that they had seen the county's comprehensive plan, which doesn't recommend a hospital at the Robinwood site.

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We might buy that argument if the comprehensive plan's recommendations were hard and fast rules.

They aren't. If they were, then the 2002 version of the plan's recommendation that the county develop a variety of housing types, including, presumably, affordable housing, would have become reality.

And how about that plan's goal of assigning the cost of new services to new users? If that were an ironclad rule, there wouldn't be an ongoing fight about the county's excise tax.

We have appealed to the group previously on behalf of the people who have to wait in an emergency room too small for the number of people it serves, for the mothers-to-be now wheeled through public hallways while they're in labor and for those who will eventually pay the cost of the delays.

Apparently, only a rejection of the appellants' arguments by the courts will end this appeal. We can only hope the judges will see the urgency of not allowing it to continue.

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