Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker are smiling brightly after an announcement last week that a new plan is in place to replace the old and costly Prince George’s Hospital Center (PGHC).

“This is really about the mission that all of us share, the goal we share to transform this hospital so that it is a place of choice for the residents of Prince George’s County to go for their health care needs,” O’Malley said. “Now we have a vision for the future. We have a process and a business plan for getting us there. In the past we were always looking for a partner or a suitor, we believe that now we have that partner.”

That partner is the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the University System of Maryland (USM). UMMS and USM will work with the county, state and Dimensions Healthcare System, the company currently in charge of operations for the hospital, to establish plans for improving and enhancing health care service in the county.

“Having watched health care delivery in this state for many years, this county deserves a first-rate regional medical center,” said UMMS CEO Robert Chrencik.

Not only would the new hospital serve Prince George’s County, but it would also be the regional trauma center for Southern Maryland, serving St. Mary’s County, Calvert County and Charles County as well.

Lost in the announcement was the job that workers at PGHC have been doing under economic uncertainty. Baker thanked the hospital workers for their efforts in tough times.

“You have taken care of our sick, taken care of our children taken care of our parents, taken care of our grandparents and you have always been in the forefront of our thoughts,” Baker said.

Officials at the announcement cautioned that this is just the beginning and there’s much work to be done. The signing of the memorandum of understanding is just the first step.

Next there will be the development of a strategic plan, which will be used to determine the scale of the medical facility and develop a strategy for establishing an adequate primary care network.

The next step would be to determine cost projections and to come to an agreement on cost sharing. The last step will be the execution of the plan that will be used for site selection, design and submission of the Certificate of Need to build a new hospital.

All the parties involved admitted that political hurdles could possibly delay the process, but they also admitted that neither the county nor the state can continue delivering health care service the way it’s currently being delivered in the county.

Despite that, officials say that this agreement could be a game changer not only for Prince George’s but perhaps for Maryland and the nation as well.

“I think that going from phase one to phase two to phase three will not only change the way we do health care in the state of Maryland, but I dare say it will change the way we do health care in this nation and that is a big deal,” Baker said.

Officials also had no word on where the new hospital would be located and what would happen to PGHC once it’s closed.

The initial investment into the project is expected to be in the range of $600 million, with much of that coming from state and county funds. However, UMMS officials expect the hospital to be able to run independently without public funds after two years of operation.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO