For a year now, Baltimore's Provident Hospital, one of the few hospitals serving primarily black patients in the country, has been struggling to survive. It has been a time of low patient loads and financial problems, as well as a management upheaval that led to a nine-month boycott by doctors, who sent their patients elsewhere.

But supporters of the 271-bed hospital said Friday that the future is beginning to look a little brighter after an announcement by Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes that the state will lend $1 million to the 91-year-old hospital. Supporters say the institution is also taking steps to trim costs and make the operation more efficient.

Hughes said any future state funding for Provident would depend on actions by the hospital, which in March was forced to file for protection from its creditors in federal bankruptcy court. The hospital must present a plan to the state within 30 days to reduce costs, must ask Baltimore to aid in the rescue plan and must merge with another facility to save costs, Hughes said.

Despite the state aid, officials estimate that the hospital, which has had a 50 percent occupancy rate, needs another $3.5 million by January to keep it afloat until June 1986, the end of the current fiscal year. It has a $41 million budget.

Del. Larry Young (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee that deals with health care issues and a member of the legislature's black caucus, which had sought funding for the hospital, said Provident planned to reduce the number of beds and cut hospital rates by 10 percent to make itself more attractive to patients.

In order to cut rates, the hospital plans to lay off 50 workers and link services with another hospital, most likely a large teaching hospital, Young said. It has proposed a 20 percent wage cut for its workers.

"Linking is definitely the way to go," Young said. "A merger would be out of the question unless Provident could retain its name and its black identity. A merger implies taking coffee and putting cream into it."