By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Those interested in the future of health care in Prince George's might now be wondering: Just who is Corbett Price?
His name came up on Friday, when County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and Council Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) offered to give the nonprofit company that runs Prince George's Hospital Center the $5 million it needs to stay open, on certain conditions.
One condition was that Price, whom Johnson and Exum identified as being employed by the Bethesda-based Mantium Corp., be given immediate access to all financial records and facilities of Dimensions Healthcare System, which runs the hospital.
On Tuesday, the County Council formally introduced legislation that would allow for an emergency $5 million appropriation, conditioned on Price's involvement at Dimensions. Additionally, the council and Johnson want Dimensions to agree it will get no more county money unless the company agrees to restructure its board. Without the money, Dimensions leaders have said, the hospital might close.
Last week, the Dimensions board tabled a decision on the conditions at the request of state officials. The board is to meet again today.The union representing nurses and other hospital employees immediately howled in protest about Price.
Why? Because he has several decades of history of tangling with hospital workers.
In 1985, Price was a vice president at the for-profit Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America when that group briefly took over at the Prince George's hospital. He helped lay off 615 employees.
More recently, he clashed with employees at two New York hospitals, which he helped steer through financial difficulties. Articles in Newsday in 1999 and 2000 noted that Price led the two large hospitals at the same time, while also running a private consulting company. At one point, he was earning $500,000 a year from one Brooklyn hospital and $450 an hour from another hospital system whose bankruptcy he was supervising.
Union officials at those hospitals complained that Price saved money by cutting jobs and services, and workers fear his involvement here.
"His methods are slash and burn," said Quincey Gamble, political director for the union representing Prince George's hospital workers.
Other Newsday articles suggest that Price had many supporters in New York, who credited him with helping the two New York hospital systems weather their financial struggles.
According to Johnson, Price was the choice of the council and bringing him in was part of a compromise between himself and council members. Johnson praised Price's decades of experience in hospital management.
Price held a $34,500 county contract to consult on the hospital for three months last spring, a county spokesman said. Price declined to comment through spokeswoman Melissa Krantz, who said that he does not now hold a contract with the county. She said Mantium is a consultancy run by Price's son, which Corbett Price had been advising. If he were to receive a new contract to work on Dimensions, she said, he would do so as chairman of his own company, the New York-based Kurron Shares of America Inc.