Directors of Upper Chesapeake Health System, which owns Fallston General and Harford Memorial hospitals, have agreed to pursue state approval of a new $60 million hospital on Route 24 at MacPhail Road in Bel Air.
Upper Chesapeake's original proposal for a new hospital called for closing Fallston General and replacing it with a new 150-bed hospital in the Route 24 corridor, between Abingdon and Bel Air.
The nonprofit health organization was considering two sites: a 25-acre parcel it had an option to purchase in a planned business park near Routes 24 and 924 in Abingdon and a 25-acre site it already owned at Route 24 and West MacPhail Road, across from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The town of Bel Air has already approved a plan by the health system to build an office building on the latter property, which could be the first phase of a medical complex.
On March 31, two weeks after the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission told Upper Chesapeake it must choose a specific hospital site before applying for state approval, the organization allowed the option-to-purchase agreement on the Abingdon site to expire.
Tuesday, the board of directors agreed to apply for a certificate of need, an approval from the state regulatory commission that allows plans for hospital construction to proceed, for the MacPhail Road site.
Approval of the certificate of need can take more than a year and requires an evidentiary hearing at which Upper Chesapeake will have to document the needs of the current and projected population.
It will also have to justify any plans for the reorganization of beds at 83-year-old Harford Memorial in Havre de Grace.
Upper Chesapeake's original plans called for reducing Harford Memorial from 275 beds to 100 and transferring the obstetrics and pediatrics units to the new hospital.
A hearing also will allow interested parties, including competing health care providers, to challenge the need for a new hospital.
"We look forward to discussing with the community our hopes to better meet its needs in the future," said Frederick O. Mitchell, chairman of the board, in a statement after the board's vote Tuesday.
Hospital spokesman Allan Acton said board members considered cost, the regulatory process and community input in their vote.
He said meetings would be set up soon with communities along the Route 24 corridor.