A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge has agreed to temporarily halt the state health-care commission’s approval of a cardiac program at Anne Arundel Medical Center while the court reviews the regulatory body’s decision.
Dimensions Healthcare System, the private nonprofit that operates Prince George’s County hospitals, filed the motion after requesting a judicial review of the Maryland Health Care Commission’s decision on Anne Arundel’s plan in March.
Dimensions argued that having a competing heart surgery unit in a hospital in a neighboring county would “cannibalize” the patient and staff market and cause “irreparable harm” to the recently approved $543 million Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, to be built in Largo, according to court documents.
In her order, Judge Beverly Woodard wrote that issuing a stay on Anne Arundel’s incipient heart program is in the best interests of the public while the parties await the review results from the Circuit Court.
Lawyer Timothy Maloney, who represented Dimensions, called the decision a “major victory” for the Prince George’s hospital’s fledgling cardiac program and said that “the rejuvenated Dimensions cardiac surgery program is now winning national recognition, but the state failed to properly consider the impact . . . yet another cardiac surgery program would have on this progress.”
In a statement, the Anne Arundel Medical Center said it is confident that the commission’s approval of its cardiac program will ultimately stand.
“We’ve known all along this process would not be without its challenges,” the organization said in a statement. “We will work through this process as we continue to advocate for what’s right for our community: improved access to cardiac care.”
The rancor from Prince George’s officials over Anne Arundel’s cardiac program turned into a partisan war of words this past year between the two jurisdictions, one dominated by Democratic voters and the other with a far greater number of Republicans.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) fired off a letter last August, responding to an Anne Arundel Republican columnist endorsing the medical center’s application, and urged his fellow Prince George’s elected officials to get the public involved against the threats posed to their hospital system.
Dimensions also accused Health Care Commission member Craig P. Tanio, who reviewed Anne Arundel’s plan, of applying the state regulations more leniently than the board did for the Prince George’s hospital plan, which underwent years of revisions and questions before it was approved last fall.
Despite those objections, the board approved Anne Arundel Medical Center’s program, and hospital officials there have insisted, through a marketing blitz of op-eds, media ads and statements,that their program will not negatively affect Prince George’s hospital.
Anne Arundel’s cardiac center would draw patients from 15 Zip codes that overlap with the intended patient pool for the current Prince George’s hospital in Cheverly, which has spent the past few years improving the care and professionalism of its heart surgery program to draw back people who had abandoned the county system.
Under the guidance of the University of Maryland Medical System, the soon-to-be sole operator of Prince George’s medical facilities, the struggling hospital went from performing zero heart surgeries in 2012 to more than 100 in 2016, earning high scores for quality.
The plan is to transplant the revitalized program to the new facility once it’s built sometime around 2020. But if it does not maintain state-mandated benchmarks of 100 cases per year and loses volume, health regulators could shut down the program.