- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The parent company of Prince George’s Hospital Center yesterday disclosed that it violated federal regulations by failing to tell employees that for years it skipped making required contributions to a pension fund.

G.T. Dunlop Ecker, the chief executive officer for Dimensions Healthcare System, said the nonprofit company failed to properly notify employees about missing mandatory quarterly contributions from 2002 to 2004. He also said the company was under “severe financial stress.”

Dimensions has more than 2,000 employees and is the largest health care provider in the county.

The company is “pursuing a number of alternatives to obtain the funding necessary” to meet its pension obligations, Mr. Ecker wrote in a memo obtained by The Washington Times.

Dimensions yesterday also formally notified the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. — the government agency that oversees retirement plans. The company also said the pension plan had less than two-thirds of the money it needed to pay out benefits as of 2003.

Company official said they made the annual contributions by the final due dates in 2002 and 2003 and that many employees would not see a change in benefits, despite the missed quarterly contributions.

Dimensions officials plan to meet with the guaranty corporation this week to discuss problems with their pension plan.

Federal law requires that employees and the corporation be notified of any missed contributions.

“I regret to say that not all of those required notices were made,” Mr. Ecker wrote in the memo.

Dimensions is operating under a new management team, but remains mostly under the board of directors it has had for years. The board has been the subject of increasing scrutiny over its handling the health system’s finances.

A Dimensions spokeswoman said last night that officials were not available to comment on the memo.

The disclosure comes at a difficult time for the struggling health system, which recently adjusted the amount of money it expects to collect in outstanding patient bills each month. The unexpected adjustment could result in millions of dollars in additional unpaid bills each month.

In addition, the Maryland State Health Services Review Commission recently discontinued bailouts that totaled at least $10 million since February 2004 to help Prince George’s Hospital Center.

County officials are still reviewing findings from earlier this year from a panel appointed by county and state officials to investigate Dimensions. Panel members recommended that the company be fired, citing lax management controls and mounting losses.

Dimensions runs Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Center and several nursing homes under a lease deal with the county government.

The board of directors defended itself in a 19-page position paper in March, stating that the company has been chronically underfunded and that its board is “actively involved and knowledgeable regarding its responsibilities.”

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