State Makes New Offer to Save Financially Troubled Prince George's Hospital

State and county officials are in negotiations over a bailout package for Prince George's Hospital Center.
State and county officials are in negotiations over a bailout package for Prince George's Hospital Center. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

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By Annapolis Notebook
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration is offering $176.7 million over the next eight years to Dimensions Healthcare System as part of a bailout package to keep Prince George's Hospital Center open. The county would be required to provide the other 56 percent, or $227.7 million

The state and county have been at odds over the future of the financially troubled facility.

The state has been pushing for the creation of a state-appointed hospital authority to come up with a long-term plan for the system while county officials have been advocating a proposal that includes a local hospital taking over the system with financial help from the county and the state.

State and county officials have been in negotiations since Thursday, trying to broker a deal before the General Assembly finishes its 90-day session Monday. Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) suggested forming the workgroup last week after his committee discussed the hospital authority bill.

"We have some time left in the session," said John Erzen, a spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). "And there are a lot of meetings that are still going on. . . . We'll see what transpires."

County officials have argued against forming the authority, which would have the power to raise local taxes to pay for the hospital system. They say the state should take on more of the costs of the system, which serves patients from across the region.

The latest offer from O'Malley (D), which removes the authority's taxing powers, represents a nearly 5 percent increase in the state's contribution to the health-care system from what is in the hospital authority bill.

Del. Doyle L. Niemann (D-Prince George's), who sponsored the bill, said yesterday that "things were moving along" and that he hoped for a resolution in the next few days.

Niemann said the Prince George's House delegation supported setting up a hospital authority to come up with a long-term solution for Dimensions because "we had not heard from the county."

He said the delegation had proposed giving the authority the ability to tax because it was "the tool that was provided to us. Now that everybody is talking, we don't have to do that."

-- Ovetta Wiggins

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