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FMH plans for Thurmont far in future

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(2/21) While Frederick Memorial Hospital is interested in opening a facility in Thurmont, it won’t be an emergency care facility and it could be a decade away before it happens.

“With time I’d like to have a presence out here in Thurmont,” Tom Kleinhanzl, president and CEO of Frederick Memorial Hospital, told the Thurmont town commissioners during a recent meeting.

Kleinhanzl stopped in Thurmont to talk to the commissioners about recent changes at the hospital and future plans. The hospital is finishing a $103-million expansion/renovation that has created a new emergency department, a new operating suite, turned all of the patient rooms into private rooms and more.

“There’s not much of the main hospital we have touched over the past 4-5 years,” Kleinhanzl said.

Commissioner Ron Terpko praised FMH’s service. He spent time in the hospital recently and said, “I had my own room. I had my own shower. I had my own TV and when I rang the bell, somebody brought me something to drink. I didn’t want to go home.”

However, Commissioner Glenn Muth was more critical of the hospital. Referring to the length of time it took him to be seen during an emergency room visit, he said, “If it’s an emergency, it shouldn’t take all night to get something done.”

Kleinhanzl said the hospital had done a lot to increase emergency room staffing, but part of the problem in the emergency room is that there aren’t enough patient beds to move patients from the emergency room into. FMH has about 66,000 emergency room visits a year, which is equivalent to what hospitals with 350-400 beds have, according to Kleinhanzl. FMH has 250 beds.

Muth was also critical of the cost of care at FMH. He compared the costs to those of an emergency room visit his daughter had in West Virginia that cost $450.

“My perception is you can’t sneeze in Frederick Memorial for $450,” Muth said.

Even with the expansion project concluding, the hospital still needs to grow. The hospital workload grew by 12 percent last year and Kleinhanzl said if all FMH locations are taken into account, FMH has the second- or third-busiest emergency department in the state. Kleinhanzl said the hospital will add 20-30 more patient beds over the next year and 50 or more over the next few years.

“We need to continue to grow as the county grows,” Kleinhanzl said.

Part of the hospital’s growth plan is to expand with satellite facilities into the community. However, the need for such facilities is driven by the population of the area, which is why Urbana has a satellite facility.

Kleinhanzl said that expansion into Thurmont is in the hospital’s 10-year growth plan, but the planned facility would be a site for routine x-rays and blood drawing. This would be much like what Wellspan Health already has in downtown Thurmont.

“Hopefully, you’ll keep it on your radar,” said Commissioner Wayne Hooper.

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