Hospital and elected officials from Prince George's County are one step closer to winning state approval to build a $543 million regional hospital campus in Largo. (Courtesy Prince George's County)

Maryland Health Care Commissioner Robert E. Moffit has recommended approval of the proposed Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center, clearing one of the last major hurdles in what has been a long and sometimes frustrating regulatory process for the project’s supporters.

Moffit issued his decision Friday in a letter stating that the project planners, Dimensions Health Care System and the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), had complied with all state criteria.

The project awaits a final decision from the 15-member commission later this month, but Moffit’s endorsement is a tacit guarantee that county, state and hospital officials could soon be breaking ground on the Largo lot set aside for the hospital three years ago.

In his approval letter, Moffit said the hospital — designed to replace the aging facility in Cheverly — is crucial to providing the “strong and revitalized health care system” Prince George’s County residents “need and deserve.”

In a statement, UMMS officials said they were pleased and “eager and committed to helping usher in a new era of health care delivery for the residents of Prince George’s County and the region.” 

Moffit’s recommendation comes months after he asked Dimensions and UMMS to reduce the size, cost and scope of the hospital. The modifications shaved nearly $100 million off the price of the project, which now stands at $543 million, and met the commissioner’s demands for a leaner, more efficient design.

The full commission will meet Oct. 20 to hear oral arguments and consider Moffit’s recommendation. County officials said that the panel typically adopts the position their staff recommends but that they are not taking anything for granted, said Thomas Himler, top economic development aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).

Any organization interested in contesting Moffit’s approval has until Friday to file an exception with the commission. Both Doctor’s Community Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center have raised concerns in the past about the project, but neither has filed any written comments for more than a year.

In Maryland, health-care organizations must undergo a rigorous and long regulatory review to receive a “Certification of Need” — or permission to build a hospital. Reviewers evaluate each project’s costs, financial feasibility and capacity — among other things — to ensure that any new hospital meets market demands.

Dimensions, a nonprofit organization that operates county hospitals, embarked on the project about three years ago with a plan to build a state-of-the-art teaching hospital in central Prince George’s County. It worked out a deal with UMMS to take over operation of the new hospital and have it become part of the company’s statewide system.

Project supporters hoped that a new hospital managed by a well­regarded organization would instill confidence and anchor a new system of primary-care doctors and ambulatory-care facilities that would attract patients; most Prince George’s residents seek health care outside the county.

The plan required a commitment of more than $200 million from the state and county toward the project’s construction and ­$55 million to keep Dimensions afloat while the proposed hospital was under review.

The long-troubled organization has relied on public subsidies to keep its trauma center and two affiliate hospitals open for years while largely serving the region’s poor and uninsured.

The regional medical center is the set piece in a strategic plan long touted by Baker and other county Democrats to strengthen the county’s economy and increase access to health for residents of Southern Maryland.