- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The parent company for Prince George’s Hospital Center and Laurel Regional Hospital yesterday moved to fend off a government panel’s call for the health care firm to be fired amid financial losses.

The board of directors for Dimensions Healthcare System the nonprofit isn’t to blame for ongoing financial troubles that prompted a $45 million state and county bailout last year.

Directors blamed “a host of complex factors,” including Maryland’s Medicaid reimbursement system and an influx of uninsured patients who received free care at Prince George’s after the closing of D.C. General Hospital in 2001.

“If the state and county have a concrete plan to advance this health care system, the board would be willing to carefully consider it,” the directors wrote in a 12-page statement released yesterday. “However, to this point, neither the state nor the county have involved Dimensions in any such discussions.”

“We are confident that Dimensions will play a vital role in meeting the county’s health care needs for decades to come,” said Calvin Brown, chairman of the board of directors, who attended the oversight panel’s meetings.

Dimensions’ statement comes a month a government oversight panel issued a critical report saying Prince George’s County should terminate its relationship with the nonprofit.

Dimensions, which has 2,250 employees, operates several county-owned facilities, including Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital and the Bowie Health Center, through a long-term lease with the Prince George’s County government.

The oversight panel, made up of Prince George’s and Maryland-appointed officials, said Dimensions “has never operated the system effectively” and ran a deficit of more than $54 million from 1999 to 2004, even as it hired highly paid consultants amid staffing shortages.

The Dimensions board yesterday said it lost $7.8 million during that period.

The oversight panel began its inquiry after county and state leaders pledged a $45 million bailout of the troubled health care system.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele last month expressed support for the panel’s recommendations.

Panel member Thomas Hendershot, who is also a Prince George’s County Council member, said state officials might not be willing to help the county fund its health care needs if Dimensions continues to manage the facilities.

“I believe we’ve got the beginnings of a reasonable partnership with the state of Maryland to create a first-class health system,” Mr. Hendershot said. “But the state officials have made it clear that they have reluctance to be the sort of partner we need as long as Dimensions is involved. If Dimensions’ participation is in the way of forging that kind of partnership, then that’s a problem.”

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