UPPER MARLBORO – After the Prince George’s County Council convened as the board of health for a Dimensions Healthcare briefing on the downsizing of the Laurel hospital, state officials proposed an emergency piece of legislation that would grant the council power to block Dimension’s decision. The bill would apply to hospitals in Prince George’s County […]
UPPER MARLBORO – After the Prince George’s County Council convened as the board of health for a Dimensions Healthcare briefing on the downsizing of the Laurel hospital, state officials proposed an emergency piece of legislation that would grant the council power to block Dimension’s decision.
The bill would apply to hospitals in Prince George’s County receiving state and county subsidies. The bill will require hospitals to give the state’s board of health a notice 90 days prior to closure. The board of health would have to hold a public hearing within five miles of the hospital no later than 30 days after receiving notice.
Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who previously said Dimensions made its decision to downsize the hospital “under the cover of night”, said the bill would provide citizens with transparency.
“It’s needed because the hospital system shouldn’t be allowed to operate under cloak and dagger,” Pena-Melnyk said. “People are worried about what’s going to happen next and how they will be affected.”
Pena-Melnyk represents Laurel and serves on the state’s health committees in the general assembly. The bill would take effect on the date of enactment, if passed.
State senator Jim Rosapepe, who also serves on the health committee for the state, said Prince George’s residents he has heard from are angry.
“This hospital system is funded by taxpayer dollars and should not be allowed to close,” Rosapepe said.
The county and state have subsidized $153 million to Dimensions over the last nine years. Last week, at a press conference in front of the hospital, Rosapepe said he would not vote to authorize another state dollar to Dimensions Healthcare until the agreement between the state, county and Dimensions is restructured.
The Kaufman Hall consulting group that gave them the recommendation to downsize the Laurel Regional Hospital sat in front of the County Council to explain the rationale behind their decision, but Councilwoman Mary Lehman and others did not buy the explanations.
The purpose of Kaufman Hall recommendation, according to Dimensions President and CEO Neji Moore, is not to remove Laurel Regional Hospital, but to keep down the company’s finances.
Moore said Kaufman Hall updated Dimensions throughout the process as they obtained more information and developed options. However, he said, they did not think to contact state officials with this information.
“We post our financials and we always post our financials,” Moore said. “At the time we engaged Kaufman Hall, it was so that Kaufman Hall could take a look and see if we could turn around the financials of the organization. It was not intended to close the inpatient services of the hospital.”
The hospital has cost Dimensions $108 million over the last 10 years, Moore said, and they were looking for a way to soften the revenue blow. Removing acute care from the hospital and making it an ambulatory care center was one of four options that did not completely disband the hospital but cut costs for Dimensions.
Dimensions hired Kaufman Hall in March for $400,000, according to Lisa Goodlett, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Dimensions Healthcare. The discussions of hiring a consultant group to fix their finances started in January, Goodlett said, and they made the decision to shift Laurel into an ambulatory care center in July.
Lehman said the process they went through, without any public input or notification, is unacceptable and moved too quickly. Dimensions hired Kaufman Hall during a time where the general assembly was in session, she said, and they were not notified.
“That seems like warp speed to me. To go through that process that quickly. At the outset, you’re talking about six months if you begin at the beginning outlined,” Lehman said.
However, Moore said, the meetings were open to the public and on the agenda. But the board did vote on the adoption of the recommendations.
Still, Lehman said, that is a “disingenuous” process that needs to be adjusted. Dimensions did not notify the county it lost revenues because of Laurel Regional Hospital, she said, and those are things that need to be discussed in a public forum among state and local officials.
It is understandable, Lehman said, for changes to be made in a “post-Obamacare” health culture with “data-driven” decisions needing to be made, but the stakeholders need access to clear, transparent information on the process.
Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros said Lehman, who represents District 1 where the hospital is located, has been put in an extremely awkward situation with her constituents due to the lack of transparency and communication from Dimensions.
It would be beneficial to all parties moving forward, she said, if both sides found a way to better connect with each other and share information. There needs to be more clarity between the two sides.
“In the beginning, Councilwoman Lehman was put in an awkward spot with her community,” Glaros said. “That is not a place where any of us want to be.”
Councilman Todd Turner agreed with Glaros, stating that he would not want to be in that situation either. If it did happen, he said, it would be “totally unacceptable.”
“I can tell you that this was a failure with respect to notification without explanation and bringing stakeholders into the process. Important stakeholders,” Turner said.
Judge C. Philip Nichols, chairman of the Dimensions board, said Dimensions has lost too much money from keeping the Laurel Regional Hospital in operation. This has been a very difficult time for Dimensions, he said.
“We were compared to thieves in the night and that is really inappropriate. This is a very logical, sound and data-based decision,” Nichols said. “Less than 10 percent of our population service area goes to Laurel hospital. Any business that loses $108 million has failed a long time ago.”