ANNAPOLIS – State and local officials expressed the hope Thursday that the deal reached to keep Prince George’s Hospital Center open for another year will be only the first step toward putting the struggling hospital on a sound financial footing.
“I think now the door is open for examining a long-term review and solution,” said David Harrington, vice chairman of the Prince George’s County Council.” … it allows us for time to be engaged in a more comprehensive and collaborative process.”
But leaders of the union that represents most of the hospital’s 1,800 workers said they were suspicious that the deal reached late Wednesday would prove to be just another short term fix.
The hospital, which is the linchpin of the health care system for Prince George’s and much of Southern Maryland, seemed headed for certain closure last week after talks between Gov. Martin O’Malley, County Executive Jack B. Johnson, state health officials and the county council failed to reach an agreement that would keep the county-owned system open.
But negotiations continued over the weekend and into the early part of the week, and on Wednesday the company that runs the Prince George’s hospital system, Dimensions Healthcare System, accepted a proposal by the county council that the county would provide what Dimensions needed to keep Prince George’s Hospital and other facilities in the system open until the end of June, 2008.
The hospital’s financial woes affect the entire Dimensions Healthcare System which includes Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Center and Gladys Spellman Specialty Hospital and Nursing Center.
Because the hospital board accepted the county’s verbal proposal, no vote was taken on whether to keep the hospital open or file for bankruptcy as planned, according to a joint written statement from the county council and county executive.
County officials were expecting Thursday to find out from Dimensions Healthcare System how much will be needed to keep the hospital open till June 2008, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the county executive.
“The idea is that we will solidify a long term solution by then,” Erzen said.
Previously, Johnson estimated the system would need $30 million to keep the hospital open for another year.
County officials said the current agreement to fund the hospital would buy them more time to find a long-term solution.
“This is a complex issue that cannot be resolved in the short-term,” Camille Exum, Prince George’s County Council President said in a statement. “Our action today affords us an opportunity to complete the process for addressing critical systemic problems and the long-term comprehensive solution necessary for a viable hospital system.”
But while county and state legislators may be content with rescuing the hospital from its latest financial crisis, Quincey Gamble, Political Director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said he hopes that the county and state will not let the current short-term fix distract them from continuing to working towards a “long-solution.”
“We’re happy for the community, and happy for the patients that the hospital will not be closing and will remain open,” Gamble said, “but I was really disappointed that this was another short-term solution.”