- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

Owners of Prince George’s Hospital Center must cut expenses and overhaul their management practices before getting as much as $16 million in tax dollars to help the struggling privately run facility stay afloat, county officials said yesterday.

Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson called for the cash infusion of county and state funds over the next five years to keep the 52-year-old hospital open while county officials study whether to build a new facility.

“We will right the ship,” Mr. Johnson said at press conference where he released a 100-page county-funded “top to bottom” audit of Dimensions Healthcare System, which operates Prince George’s Hospital Center. “We are committed to keeping Prince George’s Hospital open.”

Prince George’s Hospital Center serves 10 percent of the county’s 90,000 uninsured residents and 28 percent of its Medicaid patients, making it a leading provider of health care for the county’s poor.

Dimensions, which is based in Cheverly, also operates Laurel Regional Hospital and Gladys Spellman Specialty Hospital in Cheverly and the Bowie Health Center.

County officials are concerned about the company’s finances because Dimensions has sought public funding over the last three years. The county gave Dimensions $3 million earlier this year. The state also gave the company another $2 million.

Since 1999, Dimensions has lost $42 million, while its payroll climbed and conditions at 284-bed Prince George’s Hospital deteriorated, according to the audit conducted by a health care committee chaired by consultant Shailender Gupta.

Salaries and wages at Dimensions are 5 percent to 10 percent higher on average than at other health care facilities, the audit found.

The county consultants blamed much of the company’s funding problems on the large number of uninsured and underinsured patients, resulting in a high level of uncompensated care, the audit found.

But Dimensions’ operations are too costly or inefficient in other areas, county officials said.

“It appears that the management’s neglect of buildings and equipment has caused deterioration to the point where it is impacting Dimensions’ ability to retain and attract new physicians, maintain its patient base and provide quality health care,” the audit concluded.

Officials for Dimensions said yesterday they had no comment on the findings or recommendations in the audit because they had not seen them. But they said they welcomed the attention county officials are focusing on the organization’s need for public funding.

“As an employee of the organization, I’m thrilled,” said Julie Hoffman, vice president of development for Dimensions.

The audit, which cost the county $120,000, recommends 10 areas where Dimensions can save as much as $7 million by improving operations, including streamlining management and establishing a grants-management program.

But county officials said those savings won’t be enough to keep the hospital open. “Even with changes that will result in savings, the hospital will not have enough resources,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson said the audit is important because it will help officials when they try to get state funding for the struggling health care system. “They are prepared to help us,” Mr. Johnson said of state officials. “But they are not prepared to help us until we get the internal management issues under control.”

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