- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

The board of directors for the parent company of Prince George’s County Hospital yesterday accepted the terms of a $5 million county bailout.

The money comes in addition to about $50 million in state and county grants paid to the nonprofit Dimensions Healthcare System in the past four years.

The deal gives county officials more control over Dimensions, the county’s largest health care provider.

According to the terms of the agreement, the county will have complete access to Dimensions’ records and facilities. In addition, a “turnaround specialist” will be appointed to oversee operations, and the company must create a long-term strategy to cut costs without sacrificing patient care.

The conditions also spell out that if the county is forced to provide any more money to Dimensions, the company’s board of directors will be reconstituted with county officials appointing a majority of its members.

The County Council is expected to approve the bailout Tuesday morning.

County spokesman John Erzen said that Dimensions will receive the money immediately and that the board turnover will occur later. Mr. Erzen said he was certain Dimensions would comply because the company is requesting an additional $9 million by July.

“The County Council and I are serious about our commitment to keep the hospital open and provide emergency health care to all of our citizens and residents,” said County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat. “We are also very serious about the conditions we attached to the release of additional funding for the hospital. We demand — and the taxpayers expect — accountability and fiscal responsibility. That is what these conditions impose.”

Dimensions operates five facilities owned by the county: Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital, Gladys Spellman Specialty Hospital and Nursing Center, Bowie Health Campus and Larkin Chase Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facilities serve 180,000 patients annually.

Dimensions has taken “significant steps” to reduce costs and improve efficiency, but the company has faced setbacks, said Dunlop Ecker, president and chief executive officer. For example, losses from a one-time rate adjustment by the state Health Services Cost Review Commission offset $24 million in operational improvements made in 2005, he said. The commission sets the rates that Maryland’s hospitals may charge.

Also, the number of uninsured people in Maryland has been growing, the closure of D.C. General Hospital has increased the uncompensated-care burden, inflation has taken its toll, and a need to increase wages to retain staff has stressed the company, he said.

“Dimensions has insufficient revenue in the long term to meet its financial obligations,” Mr. Ecker said.

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