Hospital executives debate

Washington Adventist Hospital’s planned relocation to Silver Spring would have a “devastating” effect on nearby hospitals, forcing them to care for more of the region’s poor and uninsured while siphoning off more of their paying patients, another local health-care provider said Tuesday.

Ken Glover, the head of Dimensions Healthcare System, said a move by Washington Adventist from its longtime home in Takoma Park will hurt his company, which operates five facilities in Prince George’s, including Laurel Regional Hospital and the flagship Prince George’s County Hospital Center.

“It will devastate Laurel Regional Hospital. . . . It will negatively impact the underinsured, pushing those persons to our facility in Cheverly, which is already stressed,” Glover said in an appearance before the Prince George’s County Council.

Some of Dimensions’ facilities are only a few miles from the White Oak site in Silver Spring, where Washington Adventist hopes to build a state-of-the-art, $398 million hospital.

Glover and Robert Jepson, a vice president of Adventist HealthCare, which operates Washington Adventist, spent nearly two hours Tuesday making their cases to the Prince George’s council, which last year endorsed Adventist’s plan.

Dimensions is asking the council to reverse itself. But Jepson said its original decision was the right one. “Washington Adventist cannot survive at its current location,” he said, describing a small campus that is hemmed in by a residential neighborhood wary of any expansion.

“We are not seeking to harm Dimensions. We are seeking to make sure Washington Adventist is viable and that we continue to care for the communities that we always do,” he said.

Jepson said Adventist will maintain an outpatient facility at the Takoma Park site and will offer shuttle bus service to White Oak, where the hospital will be part of a planned biotechnology center in eastern Montgomery County that includes the federal Food and Drug Administration. Jepson said the move would allow the hospital to improve its services and provide private rooms for indigent patients as well as for those who can pay.

The move has been endorsed by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and the Montgomery County Council, which are asking state regulators to approve Adventist’s proposal. The state’s deliberations will begin next month.

In Prince George’s, the viability of Dimensions is of great concern. For several years, Dimensions has received $30 million annually in state and county funds.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) pledged during last year’s campaign that he would find a long-term solution for Dimensions. Discussions are underway with the University of Maryland Medical System to find a new way to support the ailing hospital system.

It is a problem with complex political dynamics. Besides Prince George’s County Council Chairman Ingrid Turner (D-Bowie), the Dimensions board includes some state legislators, and its new chairman is Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Philip Nichols, a close friend of Baker’s.

Montgomery General Hospital and Holy Cross Hospital, both based in Montgomery, have joined with Dimensions to oppose the move.

Montgomery County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), who chairs that council’s health and human services committee, said he, too, had been concerned about the potential impact of an Adventist move on the poor and uninsured. But he said he is satisfied that Adventist won’t abandon those patients.

“I believe the White Oak site will provide a lot of indigent care,” he said.

Miranda Spivack writes about government and politics in the suburbs, based in the Post’s bureau in Largo in Prince George’s County.
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