- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Maryland officials recently met behind closed doors and rejected a private offer to take over the troubled parent company of Prince George’s Hospital Center.

Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, which proposed the deal that included a new 200-bed hospital and hundreds of millions in private funding, has not disclosed the details nor confirmed its existence.

However, documents obtained by The Washington Times show the tentative offer, which was rejected last month, was worth about twice as much as the roughly $300 million in the state legislative bailout that collapsed earlier this month.

“The reason why failed I don’t know; it was probably political,” said Dr. George Bone, former president of Medchi, which represents more than 7,000 doctors in Maryland. Dr. Bone also serves as a board member for Dimensions Healthcare System, the nonprofit company in charge of Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital and other health care holdings in the county.

State officials have decline to discuss their reasons for rejecting the deal or whether their position might change now that the state bailout has collapsed.

“It’s a topic the secretary does not want to discuss,” said John Hammond, spokesman for John Colmers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The secretary is looking forward; he is not looking back.”

The legislative bailout collapsed after it failed to gain support from the Prince George’s County Council, which was sharply criticized in the fallout that included Dimensions officials taking the rare step of announcing they were recommending closure over bankruptcy.

The move was narrowly averted last week when county officials agreed to provide a temporary bailout to keep the health system afloat for at least the next 15 months.

The legislative bailout called for the creation of a state-backed hospital authority, but county council members rejected it because they said they feared the county would be held liable for Dimensions massive pension liabilities.

County officials have tried for more than a year to find another hospital operator to take over Dimensions, which leases its facilities under a deal with the county.

The offer from Doctors Community, a 146-bed hospital in Lanham, marked the closest county officials have come in their search for a new operators. The offer had the support of County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat.

Dr. Bone, who was familiar with the deal, said the offer was “a decent proposal that needed to be fleshed out.”

“I thought it was a good first step.” he added. “I really hope that it might be revived at some point.”

According to documents, the offer included millions of dollars of capital improvements to Laurel Regional, which has lost more than $25 million in the past five years, and the construction of a new hospital in Lanham with a trauma center. Many of the functions of the hospital center in Cheverly would be transferred to Lanham.

The total price of the project was nearly $700 million, including $325 million from Doctors Community, $158 million from the state and $170 million from Prince George’s. The legislative bailout included no private money and nearly $330 million in government money.

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