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    A Times Editorial

    Hospital needs to care about neighbors' needs

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 14, 2001


    The Largo city staff has suggested that the city build a wall between a neighborhood and Largo Medical Center to try to block noise from the busy hospital.

    It is not a perfect solution, but at least the city is making an effort to improve the frustrating situation experienced by the hospital's neighbors. The city as well as the hospital have an obligation to try harder on this issue.

    Many of the houses were already there in 1978 when the hospital was built on the large property off West Bay Drive. The hospital now is undergoing a $32-million expansion.

    As the hospital has grown and the neighboring Diagnostic Clinic also has become busier, the noise has gotten worse, neighbors say. Air-handling units and generators roar. Ambulance sirens reverberate through the area. Big trucks with noisy engines arrive during the night to make deliveries. The banging and slamming of trash containers being emptied is accompanied by the beep-beep-beep of trucks backing up.

    Hospital officials say they have done what they could to reduce the noise. They have talked to the neighbors; tried to improve delivery times so neighbors would not be awakened; and on one occasion when extra noise was expected, gave neighbors passes to dinner and a movie.

    In July, the hospital offered to give each of the complaining neighbors $500 to construct a noise buffer of their choice but insisted that in exchange, the neighbors absolve the hospital of future liability. Not surprisingly, the neighbors were less than delighted with that deal.

    Meanwhile, some residents say the noise has become unbearable and is affecting their ability to sleep at night.

    Both Largo Medical Center and the Diagnostic Clinic have a reputation for taking good care of their patients. Surely, the administrators of both facilities also care about the health of their neighbors. They have an obligation to make sure that they have explored all the possible solutions to the noise problem. Have they demanded that trash containers be emptied during the daytime? Have they refused to do business with vendors that can only deliver in the middle of the night? Have they considered changing parking areas and delivery locations to place them farther from homes?

    But ultimately, it is the City of Largo's duty to see that residents near the hospital get the opportunity for quiet enjoyment of their homes, and that is why it is good to see City Manager Steve Stanton and his staff searching for solutions. It was the city that allowed this Goliath to grow up amid the Davids, in what the city admits was an example of poor urban planning. Just as the city would move to stop a resident from disrupting his neighborhood with constant loud noise, it must insist that these medical facilities be good neighbors, too.

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