- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday budgeted $15 million for the next fiscal year to address long-running financial challenges with Prince George’s County’s health care infrastructure - part of a plan that calls for investing $55 million over five years to maintain the current system and help with the transition to a new regional medical center.

Hogan also announced a long-term partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System for the project.

“It’s been a long sad story about the Prince George’s Hospital System, and this we believe is a tremendous solution to decades of problems there,” Hogan said at a news conference with UMMS leadership. “There’s no group that’s more capable in my opinion of doing a turnaround of the Prince George’s County Hospital System than UMMS.”

Hogan submitted the money in a supplemental budget for fiscal year 2017 to the legislature shortly after the news conference. Democrats, who control the legislature, have criticized the Republican governor in recent days for not including it in his initial budget plan.

Local Democratic leaders criticized Hogan just before his State of the State speech on Wednesday for not funding the hospital center and other projects that had been listed as priorities in other parts of the state, including Baltimore.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker criticized the governor Friday for not including $15 million for fiscal year 2016.

“If I had that money today, that’s progress, and he can do it,” Baker said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who was planning to back legislation mandating the spending for the medical center, thanked the governor for showing leadership and allocating the money for fiscal year 2017. The Senate president said he hoped the announcement would mark a step toward other positive decisions.

“It’s making things happen on behalf of the state of Maryland,” said Miller, D-Calvert. “Talk is cheap, but we govern by action. We’ve got to do some other things, though, and this hopefully is a first step - the governor reaching out.”

For years, the state has funded the hospital to keep the system functioning and out of bankruptcy, the governor said, adding that the state can’t act as a perpetual backstop for the hospital. He expressed confidence the agreement with UMMS will provide a lasting solution for health care in a county with a population of about 890,000 next to the nation’s capital.

“We think what the governor has put together here will make that happen, so we’re very excited to be partners with the state, the county and others to make this a reality,” said Robert Chrencik, president and CEO of UMMS. “We think it could be a new day for health care in Prince George’s County.”

Chrencik noted the governor’s team has been working with UMMS since last year on the project.

The state will contribute an additional $135 million to build the new medical center, under the plan. It could be at least four years before the center opens at Largo Town Center.

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