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Allied Health Center plan draws editorial support from local newspapers

Plan lauded for economic, educational and employment opportunities

Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chesapeake College’s new proposal for funding a Center for Allied Health and Athletics on its Wye Mills Campus has drawn support from The Star Democrat, which endorsed the strategy in an August 19th editorial. (PDF of editorial)

College officials recently announced they had developed a new strategy for trying to move forward this project, which the college’s support counties were unable to fund in Fiscal Year 2012. The strategy – which would preserve the $27 million in state funding earmarked for the college’s proposed center – includes an unprecedented offer by the college to pick up nearly $700,000 in FY13 design costs. That would delay until FY14 any financial outlay by Chesapeake’s support counties, many of which are anticipating challenging FY13 budget cycles.

"We encourage the councils and commissions of the five counties to support this project for the progress, education, economic and employment opportunities it presents," wrote The Star Democrat in its editorial, which was also carried in the Times-Record. (PDF of editorial)

The Star Democrat editorial cited several reasons for supporting the project. The editorial noted the college’s critical role in training regional nurses and allied health professionals, the need for expanded and updated nursing and allied health training facilities, the uncertainty regarding the college’s ability to maintain its current Easton-based Allied Health Center once Memorial Hospital moves to its new site, and the estimated 400-450 people who would be employed by the four-year project.

". . . as the senior citizen population and its attendant health needs burgeon on the Mid-Shore, it makes great sense for this project to get the go ahead," the editorial stated.

Dr. Barbara Viniar, Chesapeake College’s president, said she appreciated The Star Democrat’s public support of this project. "This is an important project for our region," said Dr. Viniar. "We need to ensure we can properly train and educate the next generation of Mid-Shore health-care professionals, which requires a state-of-the-art facility equipped with the latest training technologies."

Dr. Viniar said the college needs its support counties’ formal commitment to this project before a September 22nd meeting of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. That early commitment is required in order to retain the $27 million of state funding, which amounts to 75 percent of the $36 million project.

"If we don’t have the counties’ commitment before DBM submits its recommendations, other projects will move up the list and Chesapeake’s could be delayed indefinitely," said Dr. Viniar.

The college’s nursing and allied health programs have been housed at Shore Health System’s Memorial Hospital at Easton for more than a dozen years. SHS is in the planning stages to construct a new hospital that is expected to open in 2015, and will not be able to provide the college with space in the new setting without a significant capital investment by the college.

The proposed plan would completely renovate the 41-year-old physical education/gymnasium section of the current PE building, replace the 31-year-old indoor pool with multipurpose activity space, and build a 45,872-square-foot addition to bring the nursing, allied health and non-credit health programs back to the main campus.

Dr. Viniar said she hopes the college’s support counties – Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot – will take advantage of "a tremendous opportunity."

"By contributing between $1.0 and $2.4 million to this project, depending upon county population, each county would be the beneficiary of a $36 million project," noted Dr. Viniar. "I’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of other examples of where a locality can leverage as little as a $1 million commitment into a $36 million return."

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