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New Washington County Hospital on track to open in 2010

design details revealed

September 24, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Steel will begin to go up within the next month at the site of the new hospital at Robinwood Medical Center, project officials said Tuesday at a forum introducing residents to many details of the new hospital's design.

Though the 510,000-square-foot facility will not be much larger than the current hospital on East Antietam Street, its design will increase patient capacity, lessen emergency department wait times, improve caregiver response time and increase privacy for patients, Washington County Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Mary Towe said.

About 60 people attended the forum, asking questions about the design and offering limited criticism. The only negative feedback came from residents of nearby neighborhoods who asked that officials keep traffic patterns in mind. After learning the hospital's main entrance will be across from the entrance to The Village at Robinwood on Medical Campus Road, resident Janice Porter asked that the hospital put in a traffic light to make it easier to get out.

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Washington County Health System President and CEO James P. Hamill said the project cost remains at about $295 million and it is still on track to open in November 2010, despite difficulties crews are encountering with limestone deep below ground at the project site. The limestone, which necessitates extra drilling in order to install the 150 caissons that will support the hospital's towers, has caused an overrun, but it will be covered by the project's $11 million contingency fund, Hamill said.

Much of the presentation focused on ways the new hospital will improve limitations of the current one. The new hospital's emergency department will be more than double the size of the current one and will include 57 treatment areas, up from the current 27, Towe said. The department now serves more than 70,000 people a year in a space built to serve 45,000, she said.

The 297 patient rooms in the new hospital will be about the same size as the current patient rooms, but each will accommodate one patient instead of two, Towe said. This will allow the hospital to utilize all of its beds at once, instead of having up to 20 percent unavailable, as is often the case in the current hospital due to isolation or incompatibility, Hamill said.

All patient rooms will have individual bathrooms, and most will have a family area with a bench that pulls out into a bed for overnight visitors, Towe said.

Another important design element is the triangular shape of the nursing units with patient rooms around three sides and a nursing unit in the center, Towe said. This design was intended to ensure that a caregiver is never more than 15 or 20 steps from any patient's room, she said.

All outpatient services will take place on the second floor, which will connect to Robinwood Medical Center, Towe said. This should lessen the confusion that outpatients experience at the current hospital, where tests and procedures are spread across four floors, she said.

The design also provides for patients' dignity and privacy with separate elevators for patients and visitors, Towe said. Patient dignity also was a consideration in placing the behavioral health unit next to the emergency department, she said. Virtually all behavioral health patients are admitted through the emergency department and must travel through public corridors and past a coffee shop to get to behavioral health, she said.

Other features mentioned Tuesday include separate circulation systems that can isolate the air in one room or department, secured entrances to each department, a level parking area without garages and 2,333 total campus-wide parking spaces.

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