Prince George's Country Executive Lawrence Hogan said yesterday he would like to sell or lease the country's three hospitals or turn their management over to private business interests.
Hogan said the hospitals cost too much and are poorly managed.
The country now owns and operates 650 beds at Prince George's General Hospital and the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital, in addition to the walkin Bowie Health Center. Hogan said management problems at the three institutions, plus the burden of providing them with $5.8 million in yearly subsidies, convinced him that the county should abandon the health care business.
"Prince George's has not done a good job managing hospitals," Hogan said in an interview. "And we don't have the resources to provide the best kind of care anymore."
Hogan said the county will begin soliciting "letters of interest" from private groups and corporations interested in buying, managing or leasing one or all three of the hospitals.
County officials will study the proposals they receive and plan a formal bidding process on the facilities, Hogan said. He added that he hopes to complete the sale or transfer by January 1.
Already, he said, the Hospital Corporation of America, Hospital Affiliates Group, and other private firms have expressed interest in the county's facilities.
The hospital medical staffs also may be interested in the offer, Hogan said.
County officials are advertising in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and county weeklies and soliciting ideas from health groups and corporations.
Hogan said yesterday that care for poor country residents would not be affected by the sale or transfer, and that the county would continue to subsidize care for the elderly, handicapped and prisoners.
If necessary, Hogan said, the county would pay new private owners of the hospitals to operate those programs "to fulfill the county's health-care responsibilities."
Hogan's actions came after a health task force of county officials and citizens appointed by Hogan submitted a report suggesting that Prince George's become a health "broker" rather than owner.
Both Hogan's plan and the task force were strongly criticized yesterday, however, by County Council member Ann L. Lombardi, who said that divestiture of the hospitals would be "totally disastrous" for the county in the long run.