The Maryland Department of Health withdrew its requests to a state spending board on Wednesday that would have given the agency broad powers to approve two health care contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to outsource staffing at Western Maryland Hospital Center.

The agency will still pursue the contracts for the Hagerstown facility by standard procedures. Officials plan to present their chosen vendor, or vendors, to the Board of Public Works late November to early December, according to health department Secretary Dennis Schrader.

Schrader said the agency partly made its decision based on concerns Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, shared in advance of the meeting. The comptroller, one of three voting members of the Board, confirmed he was “very troubled” by approving such a large sum without knowing who the vendor was.

“We agreed with the wisdom of your feedback and decided that [withdrawing] was a better course of action,” Schrader said.

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During the meeting, Franchot noted the attention drawn to the health department’s requests by state employee labor unions trying to keep the hospital from becoming privatized.

“I think people want to make sure that we’re doing the absolute best we can for the heavily affected patients,” Franchot said to Schrader.

While at the podium, Schrader defended the need for the contracts as part of the agency’s 20-year plan to downsize and close multiple public health care facilities across the state.

“Were having difficulty keeping the program and the staff intact, and we were very worried about the condition of the infrastructure,” he told the board.

Schrader told the board about the failing air conditioning and the World War II-era boiler in the facility.

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“If that were to go bad during the winter, we’d have to evacuate these patients,” he said.

“The question was raised, well, why don’t we demolish the building and build a nursing home?” Schrader said. “That could take six, eight years. We’re worried about the patients that are in there now who are fragile.”

The number of patients at the facility is around 43, most of which are nursing home patients, Schrader said.

In documents prepared ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, the department blamed COVID-19 for increased staffing challenges and expenses, which officials called “urgent circumstances.” The request for proposals for both contracts say that the approved vendor or vendors would be responsible for taking on the patients’ care. The proposals say the state health department plans to “transition this Program out of WMHC into privately run facilities.”

In a statement, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3 President Patrick Moran said he was pleased to see contracts pulled from the board’s agenda and vowed to protect the public resource.

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Moran said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration “has repeatedly used preposterous arguments and scare tactics as excuses to close the hospital even though other oversight bodies see no reason to pull the hospital’s accreditation.”

“As Western Maryland’s need for quality healthcare services continues to grow, we are prepared to continue to fight to ensure that Marylanders in these communities have access to the healthcare services and facilities they need,” Moran said.

WYPR reporter Rachel Baye contributed to this article.