Calvin Brown, chairman of the board of directors of Dimensions Healthcare System, makes his living as an accountant. But, lately, he has been acting more like a salesman.
His product: Prince George's Hospital Center.
His clients: county and state lawmakers, pastors, business people and residents.
Brown says that the hospital in Cheverly cannot continue to lose money while state and county lawmakers make a decision on what to do with the hospital system, which serves most of the area's uninsured patients.
In an effort to turn around the hospital system's troubled finances and its image, Dimensions, the nonprofit operator of the county's hospital system, has come up with its own plan and is trying to sell everyone on it. The board hosted a reception this month at the Greenbelt Marriott ballroom. About 150 people attended.
"We're trying to get the community to buy in on what the hospital needs, and get [the system] out of the financial situation it is in," Brown said. The reception is just the beginning, he said.
Plans are underway for luncheons and breakfasts over the next several months with various community groups.
Brown said the board wants to shift most of Prince George's Hospital Center's operations to the old Landover Mall location. But the problem with such an ambitious idea is coming up with the $300 million needed to pay for it.
"We want to talk to pastors so they can get their parishioners to talk to elected officials about the strain we're in," Brown said.
Dimensions has lost $50 million over the past seven years. It typically has about a week's worth of cash on hand. State regulators suggest hospitals have at least 100 days of ready cash.
Washington Gas Under Scrutiny
Washington Gas says it is moving ahead of schedule with its plan to repair leaks and replace couplings throughout Prince George's.
But the County Council's review of the process has just begun.
The council has put together a task force on gas safety policy that will conduct an "comprehensive and independent" look at gas supply in the county, said M.H. Jim Estepp, the task force's chairman. Estepp said the group has been commissioned to look at the maintenance and operation of companies and to conduct an analysis to determine whether "this was an anomaly or a systemic problem."
Washington Gas was put back on the hot seat last week when Hyattsville Mayor William Gardiner, Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles and a group of residents attacked the utility for its plan to convert an old natural gas storage facility in Chillum into a facility that stores liquefied natural gas.
Several residents told the county Planning Board that they have little confidence that Washington Gas can properly store the potentially explosive gas, especially in a region considered a potential target for terrorists. The property is near houses, apartments and the West Hyattsville Metro station.
The planning board ultimately voted against the plan, deciding that the proposal does not conform with the county's plans for development around the Metro stations.
Washington Gas objected to the proceeding, arguing that the state Public Service Commission, not the local zoning authority, should make decisions about sites for liquefied natural gas facilities.
Midgett S. Parker Jr., an attorney representing Washington Gas, told the planning board that Washington Gas was not fully participating in the proceeding because it did not think that it was the proper venue. "We are not here," Parker said.
Planning board chairman Elizabeth M. Hewlett later offered Parker an opportunity to respond to comments made by planning board members and the board's attorney.
"You're free to respond, even though I know you're not here," Hewlett said.
"I'm here only for the limited purpose to object," Parker said, repeating his reasons for objecting.
Parker left before dozens of residents offered testimony against the utility's plans.
"I do appreciate the time you've afforded me in light of the fact that I'm not here," he said. "I'm not here. I am departing."
Hewlett said: "Okay, Casper."
Holtz to Lead Charter Review
Barbara Holtz, who recently retired as administrator of the County Council, is not finished with all county business.
Holtz has agreed to head the charter review commission, a group that will decide if any changes should be made to the county charter. Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) asked Holtz, who has more than 30 years of county government experience, to serve on the commission.
Testing Waters at Black Caucus
On the hunt for votes in the upcoming U.S. Senate race, Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) and former Baltimore congressman Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat, both showed up at last weekend's annual Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Awards dinner at the convention center in the District.
"I may be the only Republican in the room, but that's okay," Steele said as he shook hands and made his way through the largely Democratic crowd. "The CBC is doing great work. It's nice to see this kind of political action in the black community. Now have to translate this to the streets and the community as a whole."
A few feet away, Mfume also worked the crowd. In doing so, he refrained from talking about Steele, concentrating instead on his vision for Maryland and his campaign.
"It is important for people in the state to know that every county is important, every person is important. I'm not buying into the logic that you just have to run in Baltimore, Prince Georges County, Howard and Montgomery County, I'm running in all counties and the city," Mfume said.
Both men used the event to sound a theme of togetherness.
"This is a campaign about issues and it has to be inclusive whether you are white, black, Latino, Arab or Native American," Mfume said.
Steele said: "At the end of the day, it is not about [Democrats and Republicans], but about people who need services . . . who want a good education and a good opportunity."
Staff Writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.