Twenty-two members of the board that runs Prince George's County's three public hospitals offered their resignations last night as part of a shake-up that board Chairman Winfield M. Kelly Jr. said signals "a new beginning" for the beleaguered institutions.
The resignations, Kelly said, will pave the way for a wholesale revamping of Community Hospital and Health Care Systems (CHHCS) if the County Council, as expected, approves major revisions to the county's lease agreement with the board today.
CHHCS, which has operated the facilities for the better part of a year, has been troubled by conflict-of-interest allegations and major management problems.
Kelly, who would be the only member of the board to remain, would be in position to oversee the creation of a pared-down 11-member board. He would not say whether any of the resigning members will eventually be reappointed. Board president Robert J. Brady Jr., the highest ranking member of the board, will be ousted as part of the restructuring.
"The option to resign was clearly a volunteer option on all their parts," Kelly said.
Meyer Emmanuel, one of the resigning members, said that some board members who attended a 2 1/2-hour closed meeting at Prince George's General Hospital last night expressed concern that the mass resignation would "cast a shadow" on their performances as county appointees.
He said he might agree to serve on the new board "when I see who the other 10 members are."
County Executive Parris Glendening first threatened to dismantle he corporation in July, after he learned of allegations involving nepotism, conflicts of interest and fiscal irregularities.
Among the allegations were that Brady used his position to hire his relatives. Brady said at the time that the hospital system had employed his brother, two sisters and his brother's wife, but he denied any favoritism.
In July, board chairman Francis J. Aluisi was replaced by Kelly, a former county executive, who immediately pledged to clean up the operation.
It has been Kelly, according to sources, who negotiated the terms of a new two-year lease agreement with county officials including members of the County Council, whom he briefed on the plan yesterday morning.
The agreement is designed in part to head off council action on a bill that would have returned the operations of the hospitals to the county government.
CHHCS has operated the Prince George's General and Greater Laurel-Beltsville hospitals and the Bowie Health Center since 1983, when the county government ceded control of the facilities to the semiautonomous board. Since the board took over, the hospital system's financial picture has worsened, to the point where 650 employes were dismissed in late August.
The new agreement stipulates that:
*New directors be appointed by elected officials and members of the individual boards of each of the three facilities.
*The county government reimburse the hospital system for any losses the hospitals incur as a result of maintaining a policy of providing health care for every county resident regardless of ability to pay. That reimbursement system is to be established by Dec. 31.
*The stipend paid board members -- $250 for each board meeting and $100 for each committee meeting -- be reduced to $50 per meeting and not more than $300 per month.
*Board members be prohibited from receiving compensation from the hospital system other than their stipends. In the past, they were allowed to provide and be paid for professional services to the board. General Secretary Wayne Curry served as the board's legal counsel, for example, receiving $204,000 in fees.
*A new ethics code be drawn up within 60 days to detail conflict-of-interest policies.
*Each institution assume greater control over its operations through delegation from CHHCS to the three satellite boards.
Kelly said that he expects a new "streamlined" board to be in place within the next few weeks.
One council member, who declined to be identified, said that the council basically agrees with the new plan.
The other proposal allowing the county to reassume control of the hospitals was "a hammer to bring the hospital back into line," the council member said. "I see this new agreement as solving the problems of the hospital."