- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2005

A government panel said yesterday that the company that runs the Prince George’s Hospital Center should be dismissed because of management failures and financial turmoil, and because it used high-paid consultants amid staffing shortages.

Dimensions Healthcare System “has provided no benefits …just inefficient management and a muddled strategic vision,” the panel said in a report. “Lack of accountability, poor strategic planning and bad decision making over a long period of time has brought the system to its present financial crisis.”

The panel, composed of Maryland and Prince George’s County-appointed officials, began an inquiry into the troubled health system last year after state and county officials pledged a $45 million bailout for Dimensions. The panel also included former Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Nelson J. Sabatini.

The nonprofit company has a long-term agreement with Prince George’s County to run several county-owned health care facilities — including Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital and the Bowie Health Center. Dimensions also is the largest health care provider in Prince George’s County.

Calvin Brown, the chairman of Dimensions’ board of directors, declined to comment, saying yesterday afternoon that he had not reviewed the report.

In a prepared statement, Dimensions said board members had yet to review the report and that it was “premature and inappropriate” to comment on the substance of the recommendations.

However, the statement said officials welcomed “constructive recommendations that would strengthen and improve the ability to deliver high-quality health care.”

State and Prince George’s County leaders said yesterday that they agreed with the panel’s call for “comprehensive restructuring” of the county’s health system.

“The report hit on the salient issues that led to the undermining of the health care system of Prince George’s Hospital Center,” Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said. “We can only put dollarsinto things we can account for.”

Mr. Steele said he and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., both Republicans, met Tuesday to discuss the report with Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Prince George’s County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean, both Democrats.

“We’re going to see how the county responds, but the state is ready to support Prince George’s Hospital and the county’s efforts,” Mr. Steele said.

Henry Fawell, spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich, said the governor agrees with the report “as a whole” and hopes that the county quickly moves forward with the recommendations.

Mr. Johnson said the report “offers serious criticism” of Dimensions and that he will work with the county council and state officials on what to do next.

Mr. Dean called for a public hearing later this month to discuss ways to “ensure the long-term solvency of the hospital system.”

The key recommendation in the panel’s nine-page report calls for Prince George’s County to sever ties with Dimensions within six months before moving to sell the health system, find a new management company, or negotiate with a large hospital system to take over.

“Dimensions … has never operated the system effectively,” the panel concluded. “Its history of poor management and ineffective leadership continues to this day.”

The oversight panel found that the company ran a deficit of more than $54 million from 1999 to 2004, and that day-to-day management of the health care system should stay in the hands of an outside turnaround firm.

Tennessee-based Cambio Health Solutions took over daily operations of Dimensions last year, but the board of directors has remained in place. The panel said it agreed with Dimensions’ recommendation last year to lay off more than 100 workers.

The health system will need an additional $30 million to $35 million within the next 18 months for capital upgrades, the report stated.

The panel also called for new streams of financing for the troubled health system, including seeking money from the D.C. government because some uninsured D.C. residents seek treatment in Prince George’s County.

“The system’s crucial role in the area’s health care delivery system means that its current fiscal situation is not just a financial crisis, but potentially a public health crisis as well,” the panel wrote.

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