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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen Havre De Grace

New hospital planned in Havre de Grace on hold pending impact of Obamacare

Officials with the Bel Air-based nonprofit Upper Chesapeake Health are taking a "wait-and-see" stance on planning and building a proposed medical campus and hospital next to the Bulle Rock development on the edge of the city, the president and CEO of the health care system, Lyle Sheldon, said Monday.

Sheldon appeared before the Havre de Grace City Council Monday to make a presentation and show a video on the new $61 million Patricia D. and M. Scot Kaufman Cancer Center at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.

Upper Chesapeake Health is the parent organization for the hospital in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in downtown Havre de Grace, the latter which would be replaced if a new one is built near the I-95/Route 155 interchange.

Upper Chesapeake has been affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System since 2009.

Sheldon told Havre de Grace leaders after the video that officials with the Upper Chesapeake organization plan to "wait and see" how new federal and state health care policies, including the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, affect patient insurance reimbursements, a revenue source for health care firms.

"When we get a little more clarity on that we'll be back in front of this body," he told council members.

He said officials want to see the federal government "back in business, and see how some of this shakes out," referring the ongoing partial shutdown of the government.

Sheldon noted Upper Chesapeake has also been occupied with the 75,000-square-foot cancer center in Bel Air, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for which was held in late September.

The center was built to serve Harford and Cecil County cancer patients, to give them a treatment center closer to home.

Upper Chesapeake Health owns 97 acres along Bulle Rock Parkway, near the I-95 and Route 155 (Level Road) interchange.

Officials with the organization have been working to develop a new hospital to replace the downtown Harford Memorial Hospital, plus medical facilities, retail stores and a hotel on the property.

Officials planned to break ground in 2016, and a site concept plan was submitted to the Havre de Grace Planning Commission in 2012. The plans remain under review by the city.

Sheldon, who was traveling Tuesday, issued a statement through Upper Chesapeake spokeswoman Martha Mallonee.

He stated that the "timing of our groundbreaking is influenced by final state regulations that are associated with the modernization of the Maryland Medicare Waiver associated with how hospitals will be paid in the future." 

Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments for patient care are a revenue source for hospitals.

"Although there has been much progress on the modernization in the past year, there are still many unanswered questions related to how capital costs will be reimbursed under the new regulations," Sheldon continued.

State Highway Administration officials have approved "phased-in road improvements" to support the development of the campus, and Upper Chesapeake officials will work with the Maryland Department of the Environment this fall to "finalize and seek approval" for the organization's Phase I plan for wetlands mitigation around the property, according to the statement.

"Essentially, we know we will be doing something on this site in the future," Sheldon stated. "We don't know when we will get started and we don't know how our master plan will need to be adjusted in order for the project to be economically viable and meet the needs of the community."

Sheldon previously spoke to members of the Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce in February about how state reimbursement regulations and the Affordable Care Act could affect the Havre de Grace project.

He said at the time that the "climate" regarding to project "is really predicated on when we get some clarity on how we see reimbursement change on both the state and federal level, and I'm not sure if that's a year from now, not sure if that's three years from now."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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