- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Officials for the parent company of Prince George’s Hospital Center said yesterday that they need $5 million more by the end of the month to remain open, but county officials expressed increasing frustration with the financial management of the facility.

“Without additional assistance, Dimensions will soon run out of cash,” said G.T. Dunlop Ecker, chief executive officer of Dimensions Healthcare System, which runs the hospital.

Mr. Ecker, testifying before a state House appropriations committee, said Dimensions needs “an immediate cash infusion to avoid closure.”

He said the health system, which also runs the financially troubled Laurel Regional Hospital, also needs to find $14 million to get through the fiscal year.

County officials have given the health system about $50 million in the past four years, and the state has provided more than $20 million.

“We can’t continue to tax our citizens to subsidize that management team,” Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson said after the hearing. “They’re not making any progress.”

County officials said they were surprised by the company’s latest request. Audited financial statements showed the company recently turned a profit of more than $19 million, the result of more than $20 million in state and county grants.

But Mr. Ecker said Dimensions still needs a long-term funding source and cited several financial challenges, including looming pension obligations, an inability to borrow money and an increasing number of patients without insurance.

“Without question our financial situation is critical,” he said.

There also are concerns that future contributions to Dimensions could be used to meet the pension obligations or cover big losses at Laurel Regional, a suburban community hospital that recently posted more than $7 million in losses.

Mr. Johnson said a financial adviser told him that the losses at Laurel Regional were the result of inefficiencies. Dimensions officials blame the losses on the increasing number of uninsured patients.

Mr. Johnson testified that he has considering providing the $5 million, but only under certain conditions, which have not been made public.

“Money alone will not solve the problem,” he said.

Mr. Ecker said Dimensions could file for bankruptcy, which might allow it to continue operating while restructuring some of its debt, including more than $60 million in pension obligations.

However, such a move would result in expensive legal and consulting fees that probably would force the company into liquidation, he said.

Dimensions officials said the health-system company will be out of money by Jan. 27 unless it gets new funds from the county or state. The company leases its hospitals under a long-term lease deal with the county government.

County officials last year began seeking offers to find a new hospital operator, hoping to turn the management over to an academic center to operate a teaching hospital.

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