In my inaugural address, I stated that one of my highest priorities was to rectify the financial chaos that existed in our county-owned hospital system. In May I signed a lease with the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) which, if approved by the county council, fulfills my goals of continuing to provide quality health care and community service while eliminating the tremendous drain on county finances that the hospital system has been.
The lease has come under criticism by some members of the council. The council convened a task force to review the lease that spent three weeks on this assignment. This contrasts with my 2 1/2-year effort, which was assisted by nationally respected experts in medical law, management and accounting. Several members of that task force, not from the council staff, have disavowed the report since its release, denied having any part in drafting the report, have not read it and have never approved it. Most of its findings were based on inaccurate information and philosophical biases.
By agreeing to lease the hospital system to HCA, I believe the future of quality health care in Prince George's County is guaranteed. Our citizens will enjoy the management expertise and economies of a scale that HCA offers but that the county's comparatively small system cannot.
HCA would continue to provide all community services such as the Alcohol and Drug Detoxification Unit and the Sexual Assault Center in conformance with current policy. Additionally, HCA would continue to offer medical treatment for the indigent in the same manner as the system now provides while limiting the county's liability for indigent care to only $500,000 annually. Indigent care costs beyond this level would be paid by HCA. For comparison purposes, the hospital commission estimates that the county would have to pay $3 million for indigent care in FY 1982 alone.
HCA has demonstrated concern for the communities it serves. Accordingly, its has agreed to pay for any litigation necessary to protect any trust that would be affected by the lease. HCA already has taken steps, in cooperation with the county and the various trustfund trustees, to ensure that all the trusts will be able to operate under the terms of the lease and still retain their tax-exempt status.
In negotiating the lease, I sought to protect the interests of the current employees of the hospital system. HCA has agreed to extend offers of employment to all current employees who have not, prior to the time of settlement, received termination notices from the hospital commission for unsatisfactory performance, disciplinary reasons, etc. Also, at no additional cost to the county, HCA will assume the full liability for the leave accrued by the employees at the time of settlement. To complete the protection of the system's employees, HCA has agreed to offer a full range of fringe benefits equal to those now offered.
While we have fully protected the interests of the poor, the employees and all Prince George's citizens who will need quality health care, we have signed an agreement that will be of substantial financial benefit to the county. The lease will provide the county with estimated annual revenues in excess of $7.9 million as compared with hospital commission losses aggregating $4.7 million over the past seven years, even after necessary county subsidies totaling $7.4 million during the same period. Throughout the course of the lease, HCA is obligated to make any capital improvements and equipment purchases necessary to provide quality care. Yet, the county retains the right to approve the purchases as well as the right to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease at its depreciated cost. This will result in substantial savings to the county taxpayers.
I recognize that the proposed change in the county's method of delivery of hospital service is significant. It merits scrutiny and public discussion. Yet the council's decision should be based on facts and not spurious claims and misinformation. The lease should be approved.