The owners of Eugene Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, bowing to community pressure, have abandoned plans to close or convert the hospital to a long-term rehabilitation center and instead will try to sell it.
A group of doctors who practice at the institution immediately announced plans to try to buy the 120-bed facility in a joint venture with the Town of Riverdale and citizen groups who have fought to keep it open.
"It means we won a major battle but we haven't won the war," said Tammy Vitale, executive director of Betterment for United Seniors, a Prince George's County group that has led the yearlong battle to keep the hospital as an acute-care facility. Saving the 50-year-old facility, which serves a largely older population in the close-in suburbs of Prince George's County, has become a crusade among residents and politicians, many of whom attended a rally at Leland this month.
"All we care about is there's an acute-care hospital there properly operated," said state Sen. Thomas Patrick O'Reilly (D-Prince George's).
The hospital is owned and operated by Adventist Health Systems, an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which also owns hospitals in the District and Montgomery County.
With the chain facing financial problems in general and Leland losing $150,000 a month, the owners had sought to transfer the 120 beds at Leland to their Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Montgomery County. That led to a citizen outcry in Prince George's.
The Adventists entered into a joint venture in February with the nonprofit Dimensions Health Corp., which operates Prince George's County's publicly owned hospitals, to convert Leland into a 70-bed rehabilitation center.
Some county politicians saw this as an acceptable compromise, but it didn't work out for financial reasons.
"Aside from the political pressure they were getting, the reason we decided it was a no-go for us was financial," said Ronald W. Weitz, senior vice president of Dimensions. A $2 million line of credit required by the joint venture agreement was "too much for us to do right now," he said.
The Adventist board voted Thursday night to sell the hospital. "It was not a profitable facility," said Adventist spokeswoman Tamara Russell.
After the Adventists' action, Leland doctors decided yesterday to revive their year-old effort to buy the hospital, "as a consortium of doctors, employees of the hosital, the Town of Riverdale and the citizens," said Ronald Kretkowski, former Leland chief of staff.
The Adventists haven't announced an asking price, but Kretkowski recalled his group offered $10 million six months ago, which would pay off an outstanding $9 million debt and provide a profit.
"They neither said yes or no," he said. "This is a different ballgame . . . . We feel the logjam has been broken."