- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The New York executive recruited to help resurrect Prince George’s Hospital Center had a brief stint at its nonprofit parent company more than a decade ago that ended with his contract terminated and his leaving with a six-figure severance.

Corbett A. Price, now chief executive of New York-based Kurron Shares of America, previously served as an executive for Dimensions Healthcare System, which runs Prince George’s Hospital Center and Laurel Regional Hospital.

But his contract was terminated by Dimensions after just a few months, and he received a severance of more than $500,000, according to a former Dimensions official familiar with the arrangement.

Now Mr. Price is returning to Dimensions as the key consultant scrutinizing the troubled system’s performance, under terms of a $5 million county bailout. The deal was approved earlier this month to stave off closure of the cash-strapped health system. One of the conditions of the bailout was that Mr. Price must have immediate access to all Dimensions facilities and its financial books.

Mr. Price referred questions about his past work at Dimensions to Melissa Krantz, a spokeswoman for Kurron. Miss Krantz confirmed Mr. Price’s prior service with Dimensions, his departure and the buyout of his contract.

“At that time, there was a difference in point of view and they separated,” Miss Krantz said. “It was nothing more complicated than that.”

Concerning Mr. Price’s severance, she said, “In the process of separation in the engagement, he did get the balance of his fee.”

Mr. Price’s term at Dimensions began before his founding of Kurron in 1990, but specific information about his hiring and the terms of his severance deal were not available yesterday. Dimensions officials did not return phone messages, and tax documents were not immediately available.

After leaving Dimensions, Mr. Price and other former Hospital Corp. of America Co. executives founded Kurron, a health care firm that specializes in turning around troubled hospitals. Mr. Price’s biography on the Kurron Web site, at www.kurron.com, makes no mention of his brief stint at Dimensions.

Union leaders for Dimensions workers are concerned that Kurron and Mr. Price have a reputation in the industry for a “cut and slash” management style, boosting the bottom line but also laying off workers.

“We have a lot of members at the hospital who have been there for a long time and they remember his short tenure there as a time in which many cuts were made,” said Quincey Gamble, political director for the Service Employees International Union Local 1199. The members don’t have real fond memories of him.”

Mr. Price ran Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn in 1996 when it reportedly laid off more than 300 workers amid a pension dispute with a hospital union.

On its Web site, the company says Kurron ultimately saved the medical center from the brink of closure.

A spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson said the County Council pushed for Mr. Price’s return.

“This is something the council wanted, and so now he’s the person who’s been chosen to look into everything,” said John Erzen, spokesman for Mr. Johnson.

The issue of severance packages previously has surfaced as a point of contention between county officials and Dimensions.

In 2004, Dimensions paid more than $500,000 to former Chief Executive Officer Winfield M. Kelly Jr. at a time when the health system was struggling financially.

A spokesman for Mr. Johnson criticized the arrangement, but Dimensions officials said it was necessary under Mr. Kelly’s employment agreement.

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