Prince George’s County officials are still optimistic over a hospital situation in desperate need of a resolution. Despite lacking a concrete plan of action, there’s hope the county hospital system will be retooled in the best interests of county residents.

“I believe we will continue to have a hospital system in the county that will go strong into the future,” said Prince George’s County Councilman Eric Olson, D-Dist. 3. “We will continue to work with the state for a solution.”

The hospital system consists of Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Campus and two nursing homes in Cheverly and Bowie. The medical centers’ financial outlook has been bleak for many years, with solutions coming and going without any resolution.

“There was a creation of the Prince George’s Hospital Authority to determine the next step and to solicit bids to keep the Prince George’s Hospital in Prince George’s,” said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley. “That process unfortunately ended with no bids and now we’re in the position where we need to figure out the next step.”

The Authority released a 40-page report in May detailing its recommendations on what the county and state should do to save the floundering system. The damning report reveals just how much of a mess the current situation is.

“Over the last two years, the Authority has conducted a far-reaching process to attempt to fulfill its statutory mandate to facilitate the transfer of these troubled assets,” the report stated. “The Authority’s process confirmed that, because of market conditions and the financial and operational challenges of the assets, the system cannot – at this juncture – be transferred as a whole in its current condition and configuration.”

However, the Authority was still able to make recommendations for the transfer of operation for the system. It called for the state and county to invest at least $174 million per year into the system to develop a cost containment plan and a transfer of assets from the state and county to the new system operator, and develop a new hospital.

That still leaves the problem of no suitable operators for the system, an issue the governor’s office is scrambling to resolve. “We went through a process to try to find a private operator and it didn’t go so well,” Adamec said. “Right now we’re looking at other options. It could mean we come up with ways for there to be a public-private partnership, we could come up with ways to find another operator that could expand existing facilities that it already has in Maryland.

“There are a number of options outside of simply selling it to the highest bidder that would result in it remaining open and remaining viable.”

Meanwhile, the system remains in limbo with a large number of uninsured patients, no viable bidders, and an economic downturn putting the squeeze on budgets. O’Malley’s office remains confident in its efforts to provide the best solution for Prince George’s County.

“Absolutely the plan is to find an operator who can keep it open,” Adamec said. “We want the Prince George’s Hospital to stay in Prince George’s.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO