Hospital proposal sparks controversy

February 19, 2008 3:56:43 PM PST
After two years of searching for a place to build a new hospital, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network and Montgomery Hospital think they have found the ideal location at the Wood's Golf Center in East Norriton.

"We think in this day and age, the access to advanced medical care should be much more convenient then it is," said Richard Montalbano, vice president and project executive for Einstein.

He says currently more than 60 percent of the residents of central Montgomery County seek their in-patient hospital care outside the area in which they live because they don't have a full range of services available to them.

"There are many fine hospitals in central Montgomery County -- Montgomery and Mercy Suburban, but at neither of them are there neo natal care or open heart surgery," he said.

The new project calls for a 300-million dollar hospital to largely replace Montgomery Hospital in Norristown.

The facility would be built on the 84-acre Wood Golf Center property along Germantown Pike.

"I thought I would live and die here. It was a tough decision," said John Pennman Wood IV.

Wood says he has always had offers for the property that has been in his family for more than 50 years. His daughter and his son help run the center. He decided to sell, when his family convinced him he couldn't continue working seven days a week.

The new hospital site is near 51 residential properties and residents like Barry Papiernik are concerned about the loss of jobs for Montgomery Hospital employees, about the higher taxes the new hospital will bring, and about the traffic.

"Surveys say that as many as 10,000 cars a day could come to this hospital and Germantown Pike is just a two-lane highway," said Papiernik.

One big issue that will come up at the public hearing will be zoning changes. Einstein and Montgomery Hospitals are trying to change the community district that runs along Germantown Pike to an institutional district. That change would allow the new hospital to be built closer to Germantown Pike, and farther away from residents.

The hearing was scheduled at 7 o'clock tonight at the East Norriton Middle School on Roland Drive.