The nonprofit corporation that operates three Prince George's health care facilities has decided to hire a hospital management firm, following allegations that the corporation's board has mismanaged the facilities.

At the same time, the County Council has called for legislation to create a government body to oversee the controversial corporation.

The 24-member board of the Community Hospital and Health Care Systems Inc. voted unanimously Monday night to retain a management firm to operate Prince George's General Hospital, Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and the Bowie Health Center.

Since the private corporation took control of the three facilities two years ago there has been a series of problems, including a nurses' strike, cash-flow problems and charges by former members that the board had conflicts of interest in some of its dealings. The largest of the facilities, Prince George's General, has been without a chief operating officer for more than a year.

Company spokesman Michael Canning said yesterday that a strong hospital management firm is needed at this time to stem "the erosion of the public's confidence."

"The board recognized that there were times they got too much involved" in daily operations, Canning said, explaining that hiring professionals will allow the board to concentrate on long-range plans.

The firm's operations came under scrutiny last February when board member Fred Frederick was fired in a dispute over questions he raised about possible conflicts of interest, including allegations that relatives of board members were being hired and board members were funneling hospital business to their own firms.

Since then, other board members have investigated Frederick's charges and released a report absolving the board of any impropriety. The use of a professional managment firm had been recommended by a Chicago consulting firm.

Canning admitted that a management firm would be costly, saying "you're talking six figures for a year." But he added that the board expects to see savings through improved efficiency and purchasing discounts offered through major hospital management groups.

The board hopes to select a firm by June 24 and have it functioning by the end of the month, Canning said. Four companies -- Hospital Corp. of America, Geisinger Medical Management Corp., Republic Health Corp., and Brim and Associates, Inc. -- already have been interviewed by the board.

The council yesterday asked County Executive Parris Glendening to draft legislation that would give it increased oversight in the operations of the corporation.

The 5-to-3 vote came a week after council members rejected an identical proposal on the grounds that they did not have enough information on which to act.

"If the issue is to detail what's going on at the hospital corporation, there are two questions that need to be asked," said council member Hilda Pemberton. "One is, has the quality of health care deteriorated? If it has, we need to look at that. If it hasn't, then we don't need to look into it at all."