SEABROOK – After initially calling for changes to the plans for the new regional medical center, a crucial state regulator has recommended the project move forward. Robert Moffitt, a reviewer and member of the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC), released his recommended decision on the regional medical center case on Sept. 30, saying the changes […]
SEABROOK – After initially calling for changes to the plans for the new regional medical center, a crucial state regulator has recommended the project move forward.
Robert Moffitt, a reviewer and member of the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC), released his recommended decision on the regional medical center case on Sept. 30, saying the changes made to the project were enough for him to recommend MHCC issue a Certificate of Need (CON). A CON is required to build the hospital.
“The people of Prince George’s County need and deserve a strong revitalized health care system, and a modern hospital is a crucial variable in that equation,” Moffitt wrote in his recommendation.
This decision to recommend approval comes month after Moffitt asked hospital planners to scale back their initial plan for the regional medical center and resubmit revisions for consideration. The new plan was submitted on Aug. 31.
County officials have been working to get the hospital built for years, and greeted this news as a positive step.
County Council Chair Derrick Davis said the lengthy process has produced many different emotions for him.
“I’ve run the gamut. I was excited at the beginning. When I learned more about the CON process I became cautiously optimistic. I think I’m excited again,” he said.
Thomas Himler, deputy chief administrative officer for budget in County Executive Rushern Baker, III’s office, said, “We’re cautiously optimistic that this will be a reality. We’re looking forward to the full board hopefully approving the modified CON.”
Now that Moffitt has finished reviewing the case and issued his recommendation, the full MHCC will meet on Oct. 20 in Baltimore to decide whether to approve construction of the new hospital, which would replace the aging Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly. The new regional, teaching hospital will be located in Largo.
Himler noted that Moffitt’s report called Largo an “excellent choice” for the location because of its proximity to public transportation.
Davis, whose district includes Largo, agrees.
“That was essentially what we said. It is why the county’s efforts to search for a location landed in Largo- all the metrics pointed to Largo,” he said. “If you look at the opportunity that is inherent there- right in the heart of Prince George’s County, where better could there be the regional healthcare facility?”
Moffitt wrote in his memorandum, “That convenient location, astride main arteries and the Metro line, could attract a potentially strong patient base for the new hospital. This stronger patient base would not only include the residents of the county, but could also secure patient enrollment from surrounding areas, including the District of Columbia.”
Concerns over the ability to attract patients had been one factor that initially led Moffitt to declare he would not approve the CON for the hospital unless it was able to be built more cost-effectively. Following this initial statement in May, Dimensions Healthcare System – the nonprofit corporation that operates hospitals in the county and owns the current hospital- and the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS)- which would operate the new medical center- scaled back their initial plans, reducing the hospital’s size by about 130,000 square feet and the number of beds by 11. The total cost was also reduced from over $639 million to $543 million, the maximum amount Moffitt said he’d be able to support.
The revised submission also included details about the governance of the new hospital in response to Moffitt’s concerns. The reviewer was satisfied with those changes as well, writing, “I also believe the UMMS will provide the strong managerial leadership necessary to achieve these economic efficiencies and thus improve the hospital’s competitive position.”
Another factor influencing the recommendation for approval was the strengthening of an ambulatory care network county-wide, which regulators believe help to keep costs down.
“Competitive rates can also be achieved, as noted, by increasing hospital productivity and securing impressive savings, through economic efficiencies in care delivery, such as those that the applicants have already outlined in extended detail,” Moffitt wrote.
Himler said that expanding the number of ambulatory care centers, as well as attracting more primary care physicians to the county, have been long-time goals for Baker.
“From the very beginning, the county executive said that it wasn’t just about the hospital, it was about creating a healthcare system throughout the county. He really focused on our efforts to grow that,” Himler said.
If the MHCC votes to approve the CON for the regional medical center, groundbreaking could begin by early summer 2017.
“Once I have a signed document in hand, we’re at the starting line of creating a state-of-the-art health care facility for people all over southern Maryland,” Davis said.