LAUREL – The Laurel Regional Hospital is looking for a lifeline. Community members and local leaders fighting to keep the hospital operating at full strength are hoping to get Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to join their cause. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, a forum was held in Laurel for residents to ask questions and voice their […]
LAUREL – The Laurel Regional Hospital is looking for a lifeline.
Community members and local leaders fighting to keep the hospital operating at full strength are hoping to get Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to join their cause.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, a forum was held in Laurel for residents to ask questions and voice their opinions about the proposed downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital. State and county officials were in attendance and, for the most part, agreed that the decision made by Dimensions Healthcare was done without making the proper information known to officials and residents.
Citizens can sign a petition that will be sent to Governor Hogan asking him to intervene on the hospital’s behalf. The Service Employees International Union (1199 SEIU MD/DC) will also be organizing a community canvas in the coming weeks.
“Our community needs transparency and more information about how the decision to close the Laurel Regional Hospital was made,” State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk said. “That’s why we’re calling on Governor Hogan to intervene and preserve quality health care for Maryland residents.”
On July 31, Dimensions Healthcare announced it would be downsizing the hospital to an outpatient facility that would include a $24 million ambulatory facility on the same site in 2018. In the meantime, the hospital would reduce the amount of inpatient beds to 30.
Local leaders were shocked. Prince George’s County Councilmember Mary Lehman said the council had no prior knowledge to the company’s plan to close the hospital.
“The vote on the closure came at the very end of July and the council had just started its August recess,” said Lehman. “That was clearly intentional.”
Peña-Melnyk regularly interacts with Dimensions, she said, and they have never mentioned trouble with the hospital.
“I sit on the (state) health committee. For nine years I have always asked the same question when (Dimensions) came in front of me. ‘How is Laurel doing?’ And not once, I can sit here and tell you, have they said Laurel was in trouble,” Peña-Melnyk said. “This was done under the cover of darkness like thieves.”
The downsizing will begin Sunday, when the Maternity and Child Health wards will close. The intensive and intermediate care units will then close in early November.
On Sept. 18, Dimensions filed a notice with the state Department of Labor saying 118 jobs would be impacted by the downsizing. Earlier last month, in a meeting with the county council sitting as the board of health, Dimensions made it clear that there would be 115 jobs remaining after the downsizing for current employees to apply for.
It is not clear to the community what they can do to prevent Dimensions, a private owned company, from closing Laurel Regional Hospital. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the city is working with attorneys and they are looking at their options. So has local union Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199.
Peña-Melnyk drafted a bill with State Senator Jim Rosapepe that would require hospitals to receive a certificate of need from the Maryland Health Care Commission in order to close, but that legislation would only apply to future hospital closures. Currently, hospitals are required to receive a certificate of need only when opening.
Lehman and Moe did not mince words when discussing County Executive Rushern Baker III and the county council’s lack of urgency with the situation. Lehman said fellow councilmembers were not likely to jeopardize the current plan to open the Regional Medical Center in Prince George’s County, which is scheduled to open in 2018.
“I don’t think my colleagues are going to end up opposing closure if someone will argue that the Regional Medical Center can’t go forward,” Lehman said.
Moe did not appreciate being left out of the conversation.
“People like the county executive don’t even return phone calls and have forgotten about the northern end of Prince George’s County,” Moe said.
Fire Chief Duane Hull and Emergency Services Chief Mike Hagerty both stated that closing the hospital would put added stress on their unit’s ability to respond during emergencies. If ambulances are taking patients to hospitals that are 20 to 30 minutes away, residents will have to wait for fire trucks and ambulances to respond from neighboring communities.
“It will affect all levels of emergency care,” Hull said.
Many people came to voice their opinion and ask questions of their leaders. That included 84-year-old Parkview Senior Living Resident Joan M. Anderson, who got out of her sick bed to attend the meeting.
Anderson summed up the feeling of most people in the building.
“How are we going to get to Prince George’s Hospital Center? On the Baltimore-Washington Parkway? There’s an accident every night. I lie in bed and listen to them,” Anderson said. “I worked 69 of my 84 years and I have good insurance and I want to be treated right.”