Seven members, a majority of the Prince George's County Council, said yesterday they oppose County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan's offer to revive a plan to lease county hospitals as a way of saving jobs of county teachers threatened by budget cuts.
Hogan said at a press conference yesterday that leasing the three county-owned hospitals to the private Hospital Corporation of America would provide care for all county residents, including the poor and indigent, at a lower cost than the county-run system, while producing a profit that could be used to restore money to the schools budget. Hogan proposed giving $6 million to the school system to save 329 of the more than 400 teachers scheduled to receive layoffs notices later this week.
Ann Landry Lombardi, who led the opposition to the leasing plan last fall, was one of the seven council members who said yesterday they still oppose the idea. "We can safely say that the council will not approve such a flamboyant and baseless effort," Lombardi said.
"Suppose they bleed the system," said Councilman William Amonett. "Suppose they take the cash out and don't keep the buildings up. And then they walk away. What do we do then?" He said a vote for the plan would be "irresponsible."
Hogan defended the proposal, saying "I'm not a fool. We did everything to protect the county in that lease--the negotiations were tough."
HCA would pay approximately $8.9 million for the assets of the Prince George's General Hospital and an extended care facility next to it in Cheverly; Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and the Bowie Health Center. After approximately $3 million in debt service is paid, the remaining $6 million would be deposited in an escrow account for the repurchase of the assets at the end of the 20-year lease, or sooner should the county choose to terminate the arrangement.
As the result of Prince George's County's tax-limiting TRIM amendment, adopted by a voter referendum in 1978, council members and school officials insist the crisis will be worse next year, but Hogan contends that TRIM does not need revision this year.
"I'm confident that other economies can be made in county government," said Hogan, who is passing up a reelection bid to seek the Republican nomination for the U. S. Senate.
Hogan has given tentative support to TRIM author William Goodman's bid to succeed him as county executive. Goodman, a former Democratic state delegate, filed with the board of elections as a Republican yesterday.
Hogan predicted that the Prince George's teachers union will put pressure on the council to approve the lease, but union spokesman Steven Bittner said Hogan's confidence was "misplaced."