ANNAPOLIS – After months of haggling back and forth, top county and state officials have made concessions concerning the financially ailing Prince George’s Hospital Center. But with the General Assembly session drawing to a close, a final agreement has still not been reached.
“We have four days left in this legislative session to come up with a long-term solution to save this hospital, and bring to the people of Prince George’s County this sort of world class health care system that the people of Prince George’s County deserve,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday. “It’s important though not just for Prince George’s County. It’s important for the entire state.”
While O’Malley promised to provide $176 million to the financially troubled hospital, he set as a condition that the state create a hospital authority to oversee management of the hospital.
But Prince George’s officials said that O’Malley’s plan doesn’t go far enough.
“We are inching closer, but there is still a gap of some $30 million,” said a joint statement issued by County Executive Jack B. Johnson and the County Council. “. . . . we believe the state must do more.”
After O’Malley made his proposal, Prince George’s County officials announced plans to surrender the hospital land and facilities to the state – which are estimated to be worth $100 million, and pitch in another $12 million per year over eight years – a total of $196 million. Officials also agreed to the hospital authority.
The county also abandoned negotiations with another hospital to take over Dimensions Healthcare System, “at the insistence of the state,” according to a news release from the county. Dimensions manages Prince George’s Hospital Center and three other health care facilities in the county. If the issue is not resolved, all four facilities will close.
O’Malley called the $176 million offer “unprecedented,” and said the state’s contribution accounted for 44 percent of the $404 million needed to build a new facility. O’Malley said it’s up to the county to devise a plan to raise the other $227.7 million needed.
But even with the state and the county promising funds, the hospital would still be $31.7 million short of the amount needed.
O’Malley also asked the Senate on Wednesday to provide $20 million to help keep the hospital open, but again, on the condition that lawmakers pass legislation that creates a hospital authority. If lawmakers fail to pass such a law, then the money would be used to help finance closure of the hospital.
“It would seem a real shame and a move in the wrong direction to allow the Prince George’s County Hospital system to close when we know what sort of needs we have out there,” O’Malley said.
Part of the challenge, according to O’Malley, is that “some people” – he did not specify – believe it is the state and not the county that should bail out the hospital.
“I think that there are some who just believe the county has no responsibility in this matter,” O’Malley said. “That the county is nothing more than a landholder in this situation and that because the county has no responsibility, they don’t feel compelled to join in this partnership.
Yet despite plans to revamp the hospital, the threat of closure still looms for the hospital and the three other health care facilities under the health system. Health care and hospital officials said the effects of closure would be devastating and have an impact on the entire region.
“It’s critically important that this hospital survives …,” said Benjamin Mason, chairman of the Maryland Hospital Association board,” that it does well, and the people of that county deserve no less.
“There is not the capacity in that region to absorb the number of people that are served by that hospital,” Benson said. “It would have a dramatic effect. It would reverberate through the entire health care system in the state of Maryland.”