Hospital may move out of city Medical Center plans study on consolidating its inpatient facilities

Parole campus considered

Annapolis officials, caught off guard, fear losing big employer

July 22, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

In an effort to cut costs and consolidate services, Anne Arundel Medical Center may abandon downtown Annapolis for its bigger, newer 100-acre Medical Park campus on the outskirts of the city.

Hospital officials said they will begin a study in the next few months to examine the possibility of consolidating all inpatient facilities at Medical Park on Jennifer Road, near Annapolis Mall in Parole.

The loss of AAMC's downtown facility -- on Franklin and Cathedral streets since 1901 and one of the largest employers in Annapolis -- could take at least 1,800 full- and part-time jobs to the county. Although hospital officials have been discussing the possibility of moving for several years, news of the study surprised city officials.

"We know they've been thinking about it, but we had no idea about the study," said John L. Prehn Jr., city administrator. "The hospital is too valuable a commodity for the city of Annapolis to lose."

City economic development director Susan Zellers agreed, saying, "I can't even begin to estimate what kind of a negative impact it would have on the city. I am very much afraid of them leaving, but we've been speculating for some time about a possible move when the hospital purchased all that acreage out there in Parole."

Zellers said the move would not only take valuable jobs out of the city, it might also compel doctors in the area to move their offices closer to the Medical Park campus, which opened in 1983.

"We lost a lot of doctors offices when the Medical Park opened," Zellers said. "The whole development down there was planned FTC around the circuit courthouse and the hospital facility. If they were to move, the restaurants and businesses in that area would suffer dramatically."

But hospital officials say those concerns are premature because any relocation would not happen for at least five years. Although there is a chance the downtown facility and its emergency room might close, AAMC officials said they hope to keep a presence in Annapolis.

The study, which will take several months, will explore projected needs for AAMC's service area, the cost of adding beds to the Medical Park campus, alternative uses for the downtown site and what medical services may be needed downtown.

Citing dramatic changes in health care and "a determination to do what is best for the community," hospital officials said they are concerned about the long-range impact of operating two inpatient campuses in an era of decreasing inpatient needs.

"With the trend toward more outpatient and wellness activities and the increasing influence of managed care, we need to decide the best use of our facilities for all the people we serve as we enter the next century," said Martin L. Doordan, president of Anne Arundel Health System, the parent corporation for AAMC.

AAMC has 291 beds at its downtown hospital and 38 beds at the new Rebecca M. Clatanoff Women's Pavilion at Medical Park. An additional 36-bed unit in the Clatanoff pavilion is expected to open next year to accommodate maternity, obstetric and gynecological surgical patients.

Medical Park also houses AAMC outpatient surgery, oncology, radiology and health education facilities, and a medical professional building.

Dr. Joseph Moser, president of the AAMC medical staff, said physicians have long favored one inpatient site and the move would be "best for patient care, not to mention the convenience for their families."

Said Doordan: "We are acutely aware of how important this issue is and how many sensitivities it may affect. The public puts its trust in us. We need to act responsibly and consider what's best for the long-range health care of our larger community."

City officials said they hope there is still a chance to keep the hospital in town.

"I think most people would be very disappointed if they leave," said Alderman Louise Hammond, the Ward 1 Democrat who represents the historic neighborhoods near the hospital. "I would certainly be sorry to see it happen. It's something we've all been concerned about since the day they purchased the medical park."

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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