Hospital administrators in Montgomery County last night angrily denounced a new state study that suggests closing hospitals to cut spiraling health care costs and said that just the mention of such an option is creating a crisis in confidence in Maryland's health care industry.
The administrators were joined by more than 200 doctors, nurses, state legislators and county residents at the county's Executive Office Building in Rockville for the first public hearing on the study in the Washington area since it was released by the state two weeks ago.
Joanne E. Pollak, a lawyer representing Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, said people have canceled reservations there, vendors have begun demanding cash on delivery for goods, and a lender has refused to go through with a bond sale because the hospital was mentioned as a candidate for closing.
"One would have thought that the state of Maryland would have learned a great deal about the effect that loss of confidence has on institutions from the recent savings and loan crisis," said Ronald D. Marx, president of Washington Adventist.
Under the most controversial options in the study, 14 Maryland hospitals -- five in the Washington area -- are named as candidates to be closed or merged to eliminate unnecessary hospital beds, which now cost an average of $122,000 a year to maintain, according to health officials.
In the Washington area, Mont- gomery General Hospital in Olney, Washington Adventist and three hospitals in Prince George's County -- Doctors, Leland Memorial and Clinton Community -- were named as candidates for closing.
The suggestion that facilities may have to be closed and the naming of candidates provoked emotional denunciations last night and some pleas that were just as impassioned to keep the hospitals open. The crowd cheered after almost every speaker.
"Does this sound like a disinterested community, one that doesn't take an interest in its hospital?" said Anne Willson, waving a petition, signed by 2,730 persons, to keep Montgomery General open.
The study was commissioned by the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission to identify a series of options to eliminate more than 1,000 hospital beds in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and more than 2,500 in Baltimore to control the cost of medical care in Maryland.
Stephen G. Franey, a senior associate with Booz-Allen & Hamiltion Inc., the consulting firm that conducted the study, said the options were merely "starting points" to give the commission the opportunity to develop better solutions.
But several of last night's speakers sharply criticized the health planning group, saying it mishandled the way information in the report was released.
"I can't get over the circumstances in which this was handled," said state Del. Ida Ruben (D-Silver Spring). "It was totally irresponsible."
Marx and other hospital administrators faulted the study's methodology and complained that they were not consulted by Booz-Allen.
Frank Gabor, president of Montgomery General, said the consultant ended up "playing a numbers game" to produce the options for reducing excess hospital beds. "I recommend the commission reject the study and work with the hospitals," he said.
The commission has scheduled six public hearings around the state before it drafts regulations to implement a hospital bed reduction plan. It will hold hearings on the regulations in September and present a final report Oct. 1, officials said.