Officials in Prince George’s County have submitted a modified proposal for a new regional medical center that reduces the size and cost of the project.
But it remains unclear whether the changes are enough to satisfy state regulators and win the long-sought Certificate of Need that is required to move forward.
Maryland Health Care Commissioner Robert E. Moffit said in May that the proposed medical center was far too large and expensive. He also wanted details about the transfer of power between Dimensions Healthcare System, the nonprofit organization that operates Prince George’s County hospitals, and the University of Maryland Medical System, which has been tapped to take over that role and own and operate the new center.
The request for changes added one more delay to a project that has been awaiting approval since 2013.
The drawn-out process, and fights over funding for county hospitals, led to partisan bickering between Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), considered a prospective challenger to Hogan in the 2018 governor’s race.
Under the new proposal, the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center will have about 11 fewer inpatient beds, one less operating room and slightly less square footage for emergency center bays.
The cost is now estimated at $543 million, about $96 million less than the original estimated price of $639 million, officials said. The state of Maryland and Prince George’s County have each committed $208 million to the capital project, and the rest will be financed by Dimensions and UMMS.
“The modification, while addressing requests from the Commission’s reviewer, maintains its original vision for an academically-led new regional medical center in Largo,” Dimensions wrote in its application. “Although the size and cost of the project has been reduced, the scope of services has not.”
A large chunk of the savings would come from building a proposed ambulatory care facility next to the hospital, instead of as part of the hospital, through a separate process that is not regulated by the state.
Project planners also shifted costs by relocating mechanical equipment from a planned third floor inside the main building to outside, according to documents the company submitted to the state.
John Ashworth, UMMS senior vice president and associate dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the changes are ”more or less in line” with Moffit’s recommendations.
The new teaching hospital will replace the aging Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly and offer a wide range of inpatient services, from a cardiac and stroke center to a trauma center. The project is central to lawmakers’ goal of bringing patients and physicians back to the county and stimulating economic development in the Largo area.
The promised state funding hinges on the University of Maryland Medical System assuming sole corporate ownership of the long-embattled Dimensions, a transition that is outlined in the modified application.
Prince George’s County’s hospitals in Cheverly, Bowie, Laurel and the new project in Largo will become part of the U-Md. system and will be operated for two years by an interim seven-member board.
Ashworth said the goal of this board, headed by Baker’s former chief aide Bradford Seamon, will be to improve the financial and operational performance of the hospitals, wean them off taxpayer-funded operating subsidies and oversee construction of the new facility.
Elected officials will not have votes on this board or the 21-member community board that will eventually replace it. Dimensions critics have long accused politicians of exercising undue influence on the nonprofit group.
Moffit and state regulators are expected to review the application in the coming weeks. Project planners hope the health-care commission will decide by late fall whether to issue the certificate of need.
If the state approves the project by the end of the year, groundbreaking for the hospital could come as early as fall 2017.