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Havre de Grace officials optimistic but cautious about new Upper Chesapeake hospital plans

Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace will be closed and replaced by a smaller facility near I-95 that will have emergency and ambulatory care services and a 40-bed behavioral health component, under a plan announced last month by owner University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.
Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace will be closed and replaced by a smaller facility near I-95 that will have emergency and ambulatory care services and a 40-bed behavioral health component, under a plan announced last month by owner University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.(Upper Chesapeake Health / Baltimore Sun)

Havre de Grace city leaders have reserved any strong opinions about University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health's new hospital plans, saying they support the overall vision, but more dialogue and community input are needed.

Hospital officials announced last week they want to build a hybrid medical center, without outpatient or surgical services, near Havre de Grace's I-95/Route 155 interchange by 2020 to replace Harford Memorial Hospital. Upper Chesapeake would also spend about $62 million to add beds and specialty surgical services on three new floors at its Bel Air hospital.

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"I feel it is important to keep an open mind and actively seek as much information as possible," Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin said via email Wednesday, echoing the thoughts of his fellow city leaders.

Martin said he has heard from many residents within the past week, some of whom were "optimistic" about the plans, and some who "had concerns."

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"I think it's prudent for Upper Chesapeake and elected officials to listen to the questions and concerns not only from citizens, but from first responders as well," Martin said. "The leadership of Upper Chesapeake must be commended for keeping a good line of communication open during this process and I have no doubt they will do a fine job disseminating as much information as possible."

Harford Memorial Hospital has 84 beds and admits 7,068 people annually, according to a 2016 fact sheet provided by Upper Chesapeake. It also had 29,590 emergency department visits, 56,149 outpatient visits, 1,612 same-day surgical procedures and 647 inpatient surgical procedures.

Martin added he looks forward to listening to what residents and first responders have to say.

"Harford Memorial Hospital is a landmark institution within our city. I have no doubts that this new facility will have an important role to play in the future of our community as well as impact the quality of life of our good citizens," he said.

Councilman Dave Glenn also said he will be in "informational gathering mode" about the plans, adding that taking a position before that would be "premature."

"I recognize that the health care industry is constantly changing but we need to ensure that we have a 'full' understanding as to what they are proposing (to include any plans for the current site) and more importantly, the anticipated impact on all concerned (e.g. Upper Chesapeake, the local doctors, the residents, the City of Havre de Grace, etc.). Such information is critical in order to generate buy-in," Glenn said via email.

"Upper Chesapeake is a huge economic engine for the City of Havre to Grace," Glenn said. "It is my goal to continue to partner with them throughout this process to ensure we can form a viable solution that will be a win-win for everyone – Upper Chesapeake, the local doctors, the residents and the City of Havre de Grace."

Council President Steve Gamatoria and Councilman Mike Hitchings said they agreed with Glenn's comments.

"I am truly looking forward to the upcoming information sessions," Hitchings added.

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