By andy Zieminski
CHEVERLY – Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson said Friday the county will give Dimensions Healthcare System a much-needed infusion of cash within weeks, temporarily ending a months-long feud over the ailing hospital system’s leadership.
“There’s no reason for me to withhold funds,” Johnson told dozens of staffers at Prince George’s Hospital Center, one of six hospitals Dimensions operates in the county. “We just have to sit down and figure out when we’re going to transfer some money.”
At issue is $14 million of county council-approved funding for Dimensions that Johnson refused to release earlier this year, until four Dimensions board members resigned. He claimed that mismanagement worsened financial troubles for the system, which serves 180,000 patients a year.
Dimensions responded by filing a lawsuit against the county, which it dropped soon after electing a new chairman in September.
“Now we need to let the community know in a positive way that we’ve worked out these problems and all the negativity is gone,” said Dr. Gita Shah, president of Laurel Regional Hospital’s medical staff and a Dimensions board member.
In coming weeks, Johnson, the county council and the Dimensions board must discuss how much of the $14 million the hospitals need to keep their doors open before the money is released, said John Erzen, a spokesman for Johnson.
“It hasn’t been determined yet how much it’s going to be,” Erzen said.
Dimensions Chairman William Williams joined Johnson for Friday’s announcement after the two had what they described as a positive meeting Monday.
Johnson has “the same vision and goals regarding health care for this community,” said Williams, one of the four board members Johnson originally wanted out.
Williams and Johnson expressed their willingness Friday to begin working together to solve the hospital system’s long-term financial troubles.
“Everyone is on the same page, so that makes a difference,” said Dr. Hema Yadla, president of the Prince George’s Hospital Center medical staff and a Dimensions board member. The situation “is going to be improved,” he added.
But representatives of the local nurses’ union who attended Friday’s news conference remained skeptical of the new spirit of cooperation.
“It’s a wait-and-see situation. Promises have been made before,” said Samuel A. Epps IV, political director of Service Employees International Union, Local 1199, which represents 900 nurses in the Dimensions system.
Epps said a better gesture on Johnson’s part would have been to simply provide the funds on Friday instead of announcing they would be available in the coming weeks.