- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

Prince George’s Hospital Center last year made more than $19 million in profits while its managers asked for taxpayer funding and called the facility a money loser.

The hospital, run by nonprofit Dimensions Healthcare System, showed a $19.3 million increase in net assets for fiscal 2006, in part because of tens of millions of dollars in one-time state and county grants, according to the company’s most recently audited financial statements.

Company executives have said the taxpayer funding was needed because of the hospital’s role in providing charity care to indigents, including many from the District.

But the audited records show the hospital was Dimensions’ biggest profit-maker last year, while its 146-bed Laurel Regional Hospital lost more than $7 million.

Dimensions did not respond to requests for details about the company’s financial performance, including questions about losses at the Laurel hospital.

Concern about Dimensions and its hospitals arose earlier this month, when state Sen. Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s Democrat, said the hospital system might close unless it gets another $5 million subsidy.

Dimensions spokeswoman Suzanne Almalel said company executives were “caught off guard” by the statement, at a fundraising event in Greenbelt. But she acknowledged they were concerned about finances. She also said Laurel Regional is turning around its financial performance.

Miss Almalel said yesterday that Dimensions officials could not respond to specific questions about the health system’s financial performance because state lawmakers have made similar requests. She said Dimensions first will provide more detailed answers at an appropriations hearing in Annapolis later this week.

“We’re all in negotiations on the future of the hospital,” she said.

Though talks of a closure persist, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson said it’s unlikely the hospital system will shut down.

“We’re not going to allow that to happen,” said spokesman John Erzen.

Despite a profitable 2006, Dimensions last year still was unable to dig itself out of more than $20 million in debt accumulated from deficits from prior years, records show.

According to the audited statements, pension liabilities are a major concern. The pension fund has been underfunded, and using county grants to bolster the fund is not permitted, according to financial records. Dimensions executives declined to respond to a question about how they have been funding the pension fund.

“The corporation has become increasingly reliant on government and other grant funding to finance continuing operations,” auditors from the accounting firm Cohen Rutherford and Knight said in a report issued in September.

Dimensions operates the Prince George’s Hospital, Laurel Regional and the Bowie Health Campus under a lease deal with the county government. Since last year, the county has been in formal talks to find a new operator.

Mr. Erzen said the negotiations are ongoing. The county’s decision to replace Dimensions follows a task force report that found the company had mismanaged its resources by spending too much money on consultants.

In addition, the company came under criticism in 2004 for giving $500,000 to a former chief executive for severance and one month’s work, amid worsening financial troubles.

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