LAUREL— Local citizens and healthcare union representatives are looking to use the court system to turn the tables on Dimensions Healthcare and the downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital. The 1199 Service Employment International Union (SEIU) of United Healthcare Workers East partnered with citizens to file a temporary restraining order to block the downsizing of […]
LAUREL— Local citizens and healthcare union representatives are looking to use the court system to turn the tables on Dimensions Healthcare and the downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital.
The 1199 Service Employment International Union (SEIU) of United Healthcare Workers East partnered with citizens to file a temporary restraining order to block the downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital from a full acute care center to an ambulatory outpatient facility.
The lawsuit claims Dimensions, which is a privately owned company, is in violation of a lease agreement in accordance to Prince George’s County Code. CR-96-1978 in the county’s charter says that county health facilities may not close or substantially reduce services without prior written approval from the county council sitting as the board of health.
A health facility may close without board of health approval if it is clearly indicated within the county’s budget; however, the county’s budget did not indicate any need in reduction of health services at any county facilities.
“Dimensions is obligated to provide the services provided at Laurel Regional Hospital at the time the County and Dimensions entered into the lease agreement for the county hospital system,” the complaint said. “Plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed by the conversion of the Laurel Regional Hospital into an ambulatory care center because they will be deprived of the care available at a full-service hospital.”
Erika Murray, a spokeswoman for Dimensions, said that the company has not formally received the complaint as of yet, so there have been no discussions on how they will approach the matter.
“As you can imagine, we do not comment on pending litigation,” Murray said. “We will need some time to review all materials.”
Paula Adams, a Laurel resident and a plaintiff in the case, said the loss will be especially devastating to her as an 81 year old. Laurel Regional Hospital is where she gets her primary care, she said.
“I’m 81 years old and Laurel Regional is my medical home where I see my cardiologist and orthopedist,” Adams said. “I don’t know what I would do without the staff and services there.”
Dimensions signed a lease agreement with the county in 1992 for the land where Laurel Regional Hospital, Bowie Health Center and Prince George’s Hospital are located. The lease states Dimensions is obligated to provide “community services,” according to the complaint, which includes healthcare.
Last week, at a community forum, citizens of Laurel and public officials came together to ask for Governor Larry Hogan’s help on the issue. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the decision to close the full service hospital is another failure of Dimensions executives to operate in an efficient manner.
“It was made in closed door sessions with no community involvement without discussions with local elected officials,” Moe said. “I question why the Dimensions leadership failed to provide the public with full disclosure of the information contained in the consultant’s scope of work.”
Moe previously stated he would like to see another healthcare company replace Dimensions in Prince George’s County, saying “it is time for Dimensions Healthcare to go.”
Moe is not the only local leader who is not satisfied with Dimensions’ process or decision to downsize the Laurel Regional Hospital. State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk said this decision is why Governor Hogan is being called on for help.
As a nine-year member of the state health committee, Pena-Melnyk said she is in contact with Dimensions regularly and never heard about the decision to close the hospital prior to the first announcement on July 31.
“Our community needs transparency and more information about how the decision to close Laurel Regional Hosptial was made,” Pena-Melnyk said.
The reason for the downsizing is to cut costs for Dimensions. Laurel Regional Hospital costs the private healthcare company $108 million over the last 10 years according to Neji Moore, president of Dimensions Healthcare.
Removing acute care from the hospital was one of four options that did not completely disband the hospital’s services, but cut costs nonetheless.
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.”
Dimensions plan would downsize the Laurel Hospital to an outpatient facility which would include a $24 million ambulatory care facility by 2018. The hospital would need to reduce the amount of inpatient beds to just 30.
The complaint indicates that 55 employees have already been terminated from Laurel Regional Hospital as a result of current reductions. It is estimated that an additional 40 members will lose their jobs by November 7, according to the complaint.