Nearly 40 persons urged the Prince George's County Council yesterday to continue its lease with the corporation that manages its three public hospitals until a recently revamped corporate structure for the institutions has been evaluated.
The council was considering discontinuing its agreement with the corporation, which has been riddled with management problems, but postponed any changes.
The debate on hospitals followed an emotional argument among council members earlier in the day over planning for an extension of the Green Line Metro system. Council member Floyd E. Wilson, who opposed a proposal by colleague Sue V. Mills to change planning documents to facilitate sale of land along a route once considered for the Metro, called the proposal "racist," provoking an angry exchange.
Many of the people who testified on the hospital issue, including a busload of supporters from Laurel, had originally supported the legislation. They said their concerns about Community Hospital and Health Care Systems (CHHCS), the independent corporation that runs the three public hospitals, had been mollified by last week's announcement that the 28-member board will be pared to 11 and that several other substantial changes will be made in the county's two-year-old lease agreement with the corporation. More than 100 people attended yesterday's three-hour hearing.
Del. William Bevan said, "I believe the bill . . . should be kept on the back burner. We must be assured that we will never again be faced with this scenario."
But several speakers, including a representative of the Maryland Nurses Association, said that they remain concerned about the quality of health care at the hospitals.
"The nurses at P.G. and Laurel would like to give you the best possible care, but they only have two arms and two legs," said Julie Pannell, a critical care nurse who serves as the association's legislative cochairwoman. In August, more than 615 hospital employes were fired.
Pannell said that she "disagreed strongly" with several doctors who told the council that morale and quality of care have improved in recent weeks at Prince George's General and Greater Laurel-Beltsville hospitals and the Bowie Health Center.
Winfield M. Kelly Jr., the chairman of the hospital corporation board, said that he has "a sense" that employe morale has improved at the hospitals.
Kelly said that legislation by the council will not be needed because if the new structure doesn't work, "we'll just give the hospitals back to you."
In its earlier business, the council rejected an effort by Mills to have the proposed Rosecroft Metro Rail alignment deleted from county planning documents.
Mills said she wanted to protect property owners along the Rosecroft route who have had trouble selling their land because it has been informally set aside for planning purposes for an eventual extension of the Green Line. Metro has never ruled out the possibility of a second southern county line ending at Rosecroft, but it is not part of the current building plans, which call for the Green Line to end at Branch Avenue.
Wilson accused Mills of representing "racist" and antidevelopment views in her attempts to delete the Rosecroft proposal, which he had supported. "Look at your record, it is racist," he said. "If it is new development, you don't want it."
"We have to, I think, change our attitude that development is not going to come down there," Wilson said.
"That is an absolute untruth," Mills responded emotionally. "As it turns out, the poor people I am trying to help want to develop their property. This is no ploy."