Ocean City Today

Facts, principles and perceptions

May 18, 2017



printed 05/19/2017


More than 25 years have passed since Atlantic General Hospital was more of an idea than it was a likelihood, and supporters had to battle for the public and official recognition the concept needed to earn state approval.

Those who were involved back then will admit that it was not an elegant exercise. It was aggravating, frustrating and, at times, brutal, but they persevered and ultimately prevailed, because then-Gov. William Donald Schaeffer embraced the proposal’s single most important justification — Ocean City and its hundreds of thousands of tourists needed a primary care facility. Schaeffer was, after all, a big fan of Ocean City.

Although AGH has expanded its reach to encompass all northern Worcester County, it remains that its raison d'etre was to provide vital services to the huge summer crowds, while the smaller year-round population in the coastal communities also would benefit.

That’s why hearing the Ocean City Council now debating whether to support Atlantic General, while seemingly referring to it as some semi-related entity, is disappointing.

AGH’s location in Berlin, in fact, is because the late Irv Bainum, one of the hospital’s original advocates, donated the land. It had nothing to do with the role those early volunteers hoped the hospital would assume.

It’s equally disheartening to hear the council’s “No thanks, we gave at the office” reply to the hospital’s request for a contribution.

AGH could become a county hospital, but it isn’t one yet and it shouldn’t be a victim of the resort government’s argument with the county over who should pay for what.

That approach would suggest that AGH does less for Ocean City property and business owners than it does for other county residents. That’s hardly the case. At least it wasn’t when those first supporters repeatedly made their argument to anyone who would listen that Ocean City could and would support a hospital.

Considering that probably two-thirds of the Ocean City Fire Department’s 6,000 calls each year involve medical emergencies that generally wind up at AGH, City Hall should recognize that its continuing dispute with the county might be about what’s fair, but it should not be confused with what’s right.

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