LAUREL – The yearlong struggle to retain full-service operation of north Prince George’s County’s Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH) came to an end Monday with the announcement that the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) will now oversee the hospital’s operations. The agreement will keep all inpatient services offered at LRH operational through Dec. 31, 2017, […]
LAUREL – The yearlong struggle to retain full-service operation of north Prince George’s County’s Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH) came to an end Monday with the announcement that the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) will now oversee the hospital’s operations.
The agreement will keep all inpatient services offered at LRH operational through Dec. 31, 2017, and create a Strategic Planning Workgroup (SPWG) tasked with gathering community input and recommendations on how to improve the services offered at the hosptial.
The plan’s execution remains dependent on Dimensions receiving a Certificate of Need from the Maryland Health Care Commission that authorizes the construction of the new regional medical center in Largo.
That decision will be made by the end of the year.
“Laurel Hospital is not going to close,” said State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-21), who, along with many other displeased elected officials and residents, worked for more than a year to save LRH. “The University of Maryland Medical System is taking over Laurel Regional Hospital. They have committed to doing it promptly.”
UMMS chief operating officer Robert Chrencik said the system will improve and expand the services offered at LRH while rebranding the hospital to attract a larger market of employees using the work group’s recommendations along with its own set of vast resources as the largest hospital system in the state.
“It’s remarkable that a county with 900,000 people would not have a world-class medical center. We’re excited about creating one,” he said. “Although we haven’t yet defined exactly what the future of the Laurel healthcare campus would look like, I can promise you when it is redesigned, it’s going to be redesigned through a process that is going to be very community-focused.”
On July 31 of last year, previous hospital management Dimensions Health Corporations decided to downsize the hospital into a primarily outpatient facility that included 24-hour ambulatory services and only 30 inpatient beds, without informing the public prior to the announcement.
Dimensions said maintaining full-service operations did not make sense financially and the hospital had been losing millions of dollars over the years.
In the time since, more than 100 jobs have been cut and departments such as the maternity ward and child health unit have been closed. The SPWG will decide whether these, and other departments, will eventually return to the hospital.
The SPWG, in consultation with elected officials, is tasked with finding the best services that can improve healthcare delivery to Laurel’s citizens.
More specifically, the workgroup will review a workforce analysis and make recommendations that include, but are not limited to, assessment of staffing levels in dietary services, environmental sciences and facility maintenance.
Additionally, in the event of job losses that may occur during this period, the group will review opportunities for alternative placement and re-training of employees in an effort to improve patient safety and quality of care at LRH.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and UMMS Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Stephen Bartlett will co-chair the workgroup and encourage any and all residents invested in the hospital’s future to participate.
“Many of you here today took buses to Annapolis, attended community meetings, sent letters (and) made phone calls, all to save Laurel Regional Hospital,” Moe said to a crowd of Laurel residents. “All of those efforts got us to where we are today, but we are not done.”
At the outset of the controversy, many took issue with not only how Dimensions came to its decision, with little to no outside consultation, but also with the fact that removing inpatient services meant longer commutes for those who were in the midst of an emergency.
County Councilwoman Mary Lehman said this issue has been her longest and most arduous in six years on the council. And it became much more personalized when she received a call from a constituent whose son suffers from severe and frequent asthma attacks and might not make it to a farther hospital.
While hoping inpatient beds remain at LRH, Lehman also stressed the importance of maintaining psychiatric care for hospital visitors.
“There are a lot of people that pass through this area because it is at the nexus of four counties, and it is halfway between Baltimore and Washington,” she said. “A lot of people pass through and they are in need of psychiatric services. They need compassion; they need care. I believe they need beds and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to keep those.”
Under the agreement, all Dimensions facilities including LRH will become UMMS affiliates. County Executive Rushern Baker III stressed the agreement is a partnership and not a termination of the county’s relationship with Dimensions.
Baker said county’s new relationship with UMMS, in conjunction with the opening of the regional medical center, will forge the way for modernized and streamlined healthcare the county.
“I want to thank Bob Chrencik and his team for working with us and being committed to making sure, as we move forward, we provide the best healthcare we can, not only for Laurel and the north part of Prince George’s County, but all Prince George’s County.”