A lead-lined room intended for a $100,000 X-ray machine remains empty at the new $2.28 million Prince George's County health facility in Clinton. The machine will not be purchased because money is unavailable.
A suit of brightly painted rooms planned for veneral disease and tuberculosis control services will not be used to test suspected victims. The Health Department cannot afford to staff the program.
Plans for the 151-room Leonard Dyer Regional Health Center, which serves southern Prince George's County, also called for a staff of 14 mental health therapists. Now Director Paul Reinhard predicts that the center will have only two psychiatric social workers -- and they will work part time.
The center, which opened in January, is not just beset with funding problems. It is located in a stie inaccessible to public transportation, and persons with revoked drivers' licenses who must attend mandatory education classes there have a hard time reaching it. The center originally was to be located on the grounds of the Southern Maryland Hospital Center, which is four miles from Dyer, but the location was changed because of what some persons call "political feuding."
The center was planned in the late 1960s, long before TRIM and inflation painfully squeezed the county government's budget. In 1974, Prince George's voters, by a ratio of 4-to-1, approved $13.3 million in bond sales for several health facilities, includiong the Dyer center. But in 1978 the economic atmosphere changed and the same taxpayers voted, by approving the measure known as TRIM, to cap real property taxes at the 1979 level.
So when the time came to staff and equip the center, funds had dried up as a result of what Reinhard called a "ground swell of opinion . . . that less government is better." He said that health services are budgeted by programs on a countywide basis, making it difficult to specify the amount of funds available to the center. When staffing is completed, the number of workers will be about a third less than originally envisioned, he added.
Thus the two-level structure has been plagued with staffing problems, leading some health officials to worry that it is becoming a white elephant.
Reinhard is optimistic, though, that the center will solve its problems. Already, personnel costs are being cut by employing some doctors oin a contractual basis rather than as full-time staff members.
"Doctors will come in for a three-hour clinic session and we will reimburse them on a hourly rate -- maybe $75 an hour -- but that is cheaper than a $50,000-a-year salary," Reinhard said.
Although it is doubtful that the center will ever be used to its capacity, it will be as fully operational as possible "within budget constraints" by fall, Reinhard said. It already has begun a number of important services, which are available to all county residents. Among them are:
Screening and testing for hypertension and diabetes.
A well-baby clinic, which provides physical examinations for children and refers to doctors youngsters with problems, usually in county facilities.
A family planning unit, which provides instruction on birth control and provides pills, IUDs and diaphrams.
An immunization clinic, which administers, free of charge, shots required for schoolchildren.
In the past, the county has operated these services out of several church basement clinics in southern Prince George's.
Some services the center cannot offer because of its financial limitations will be made available by allowing private groups to use its space.
One such group is the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, a nonprofit organization that specializes in teaching expectant parents how to prepare for childbirth.Instructor Carol Flewelling already has held the first set of classes in the carpeted waiting area designed for the never-realized VD and TB control program.
Once a week for eight weeks couples come to learn -- for a cost of $58 -- how to say no and when to say yes to doctors advising the use of drugs to ease labor pains. The women learn breathing techniques and their coaches -- husbands and friends -- learn how to help with massage and calm coaxing.
The speech and hearing department equipped with a $20,000 autiometric booth, is expected to be in full operation by the middle of the month. The booth includes two sound-isolated rooms separated by a one-way mirror with the patient on one side and the audiologist on the other. With the help of a computerized control panel, the audiologist can measure sound levels ranging from that of "a cotton ball falling to a jet engine three feet away," said Bonne Smith, director of speech pathology and audiology for the county health department. The system will be used to test hearing loss due to causes ranging from middle-ear infections to possible brain tumors.
Because the Dyer center cannot afford to hire new staff members for the speech and audiology program, the center will borrown staff from the Cheverly clinic, headquarters of the county health department. This means a cutback in speech and audiology services at Cheverly and a reduction by almost 75 percent in the number of staff hours originally planned for the Clinton center's speech and hearing clinic.
The Clinton center currently has a drug rehabilitation program offering family and individual counseling. The conselors see mainly persons who use of abuse marijuana, cocaine, valium, barbiturates and amphetamines. Recently, though, said Jill Leberman, assistant director of the program, there has been a "surprising increase" in the number of clients using LSD.
The center, which is intended to serve an area of 209 square miles and a population of 225,000, is located on Piscataway Road in Clinton. John Dutrow, a county health educator, called th location "atrocious" because of its inaccessibility. "Some of the people who come to use the clinic have cars that can barely make it there. Some of the cars wouldn't start when they went to leave and our maintenance man helps get them (the cars) going again."
The site of the center is a "matter of politics," according to Reinhard. Because of a "feud" between Winfield Kelly, then county executive, and Dr. Francis Chiaromonte, the executive director of the hospital, the center site was moved. Sam Wynkoop, who was an assistant to Kelly, said that there was a "strong distrust" between the two men.
County council member Frank Casula said the "feud between Kelly and Chiaramonte got so damn bad that even members of council from the southern end of the county voted to have the site where it is" -- away from the hospital.
Kelly, who no runs Storer Cable Communications, denies that differences between himself and Chiaramonte had anything to do with the center's site. Chiaramonte could not be reached for comment.
Having the center a few miles from Southern Maryland Hospital is the "antithesis of good sense" because the two facilities are now duplicating services, observed a county physician.