A Checkup of Hospital Parent's Finances

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ahealth-care consulting company has been brought in by the county to examine finances at Dimensions Healthcare System, the not-for-profit company that runs the county's hospital system.

The county required Dimensions to allow New York-based Kurron Shares of America Inc. and its chief executive, Corbett A. Price, full access to county-owned facilities and company records under the terms of a $5 million bailout that kept the hospitals' doors open last month.

When the County Council and Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) asked Dimensions' board of directors to give Kurron access, Price and his company had no formal association with either the hospital or the county.

That has now changed.

Kurron and the county signed a contract Feb. 2. The contract states that the county will pay the company as much as $100,000 for its work from Dec. 20 until June 30.

The company is supposed "to help identify and solicit" parties interested in buying the system from Dimensions, "assist the county in structuring a sale or transfer" of the system and "assess the current financial environment of Dimensions Healthcare's operation of the health system."

For these services, Kurron will be paid hourly wages for its associates, from $90 to $650.

Suzanne Almalel, a Dimensions spokeswoman, said Kurron employees have set up shop in a conference room at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly and have been examining records. M elissa Krantz, a spokeswoman for Price, also confirmed that the company has started work. She said, however, that Price is not leading the team. That task has been assigned to Maryland-based principal Elizabeth F. Norton.

Hospital union members have been wary about Kurron's involvement. The union, which represents nurses and support staff, has clashed with Price elsewhere over his cost-cutting techniques. In addition, as a vice president at the Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, Price fired more than 600 Prince George's workers in the mid-1980s.

But his company has received high marks from other analysts for its work in bringing some New York hospitals out of bankruptcy.

Johnson and members of the County Council have stressed that Kurron's analysis will help reveal the state of the hospital system's finances. What is unclear is when such a report would be released. At a forum organized by the community group Progressive Cheverly last week, Chief of Staff Michael D. Herman announced that Johnson was in secret negotiations with a company interested in buying the system and hoped to announce a deal within seven to 10 days.

No such announcement had been made as of press time Tuesday.

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