ANNAPLOIS – State legislators, local officials and affected citizens took to Annapolis to let it be known how they felt left out of Dimensions’ decision making process when it came to the downsizing of the Laurel Hospital. During a Health and Government operations committee session, State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk questioned Dimensions President Neil Moore about […]
ANNAPLOIS – State legislators, local officials and affected citizens took to Annapolis to let it be known how they felt left out of Dimensions’ decision making process when it came to the downsizing of the Laurel Hospital.
During a Health and Government operations committee session, State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk questioned Dimensions President Neil Moore about the company’s decision making process and whether there could have been more done to preserve the Laurel Regional Hospital.
“Imagine waking up and finding out a hospital you have represented is closing,” Pena-Melnyk said. “That was the situation we faced. Then you look incompetent. I have sat on this committee for nine years. Not once has Dimensions said that Laurel was in trouble.”
The only entity Dimensions pointed to in financial trouble, Pena-Melnyk said, was the hospital in Cheverly. All of a sudden, she said, they find out Laurel Regional Hospital was being affected.
Despite Dimensions’ financial struggles, she said, the state and Prince George’s County has continued to put money into it year after year. They supported the new Regional Medical Center because they thought Laurel Regional Hospital was part of the plan of the future of Dimensions.
“We would’ve never voted for that new hospital if Laurel was not on the table,” Pena-Melnyk said.
Moore said, previously at the last general assembly session in the state, Laurel was previously part of the future of Dimensions. However, he said, there were five to seven recommendations provided by the consulting firm Kaufman Hall to help Dimensions cut costs and downsizing the Laurel hospital was the one they chose.
“We had engaged them in very in-depth discussions over a four month period, and there were variations of the options,” Moore said. “The preferred option was to have a hybrid of a hospital which included some inpatient services. But the losses from that option would be $9 million a year and was projected to grow.”
Currently, Moore said, the plan is to downsize the Laurel hospital into an outpatient ambulatory care facility by 2018, costing Dimensions just $24 million.
Moore said he received a letter of interest from Bridgepoint Healthcare for Laurel Regional Hospital. They are negotiating a letter of confidentiality with Bridgepoint, he said, but they are interested in purchasing the hospital from Dimensions.
Dimensions has already closed the maternity ward in Laurel Hospital, Pena-Melnyk said, and the closest two hospitals do not offer maternity and behavioral health.
“The closest hospital is 10.7 miles away from people that live in Laurel. Which is, really, the difference between living and dying in a lot of cases,” Pena-Melnyk said.
Along with the maternity ward, Dimensions has also closed 11 surgical beds. Doctor’s Community Hospital is the nearest hospital to the Laurel Regional Medical center, but is over 10 miles away.
Dimensions did not conduct an impact study, Moore said, on what the closure of Laurel hospital would have on other hospitals in the surrounding area. However, he said, Kaufmann Hall did take into consideration hospitals available for care in the area.
“We did not do an impact study on the area, but certainly, when looking at the landscape of hospitals, Kaufmann Hall did take into consideration hospitals that would be able to provide care in the area,” Moore said.
However, Pena-Melnyk said, that is not enough. There needed to be an economic impact study for the businesses in the area and there needed to be more consideration of future residents of Laurel.
Moore said Dimensions was losing $18 million per year at Laurel and needed to fix the issue. But Pena-Melnyk said 50,000 new residents will be moving into the area over the next 10 years and were not accounted for in Kaufmann Hall’s study.
County Councilwoman Mary Lehman, in a press conference prior to the committee meeting, said people expect and want transparency in government and Dimensions’ process was not transparent.
“No community input. We’re talking about a community hospital. The citizens and employees have not been heard and have not had an opportunity to ask questions,” Lehman said.
People are not just customers and patients, Lehman said, but they are “shareholders” in Dimensions and put their tax money into the healthcare system.
Because of that, she said, they need to have some say in what Dimensions is doing. If Dimensions lost money because of the Laurel Regional Hospital, the community should have heard about it.
Paula Adams, a Laurel resident who said doctors at Laurel Regional Hospital saved her life after nearly having a heart attack, said it has become part of who she is.
Without Laurel Hospital, Adams said, she does not know what would have happened to her.
“Laurel Regional Hospital saved my life about 16 years ago,” Adams said. “I had angioplasty and two stints inserted. I had a stress test two weeks ago and I’m doing well.”
Laurel Fire and Rescue Chief Michael Haggerty said the downgrading of the hospital is going to have a huge effect on the four different jurisdictions they serve.
There are parts of Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Howard counties the Laurel Fire and Rescue squad serve and the Laurel Regional Hospital serviced the same areas.
“There will be a huge rippling effect on the emergency services. It’s going to put units significantly out of the area, whether deeper into Columbia, further into Lanham, down to Cheverly and further out,” Hagerty said.