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Coming soon to Prince George’s County: A New Regional Medical Center

The Prince George’s County government will decide within the next 60 days the location of a new regional medical center to open in 2017, according to Chief Administrative Officer of Prince George’s County Bradford L. Seamon.

The state, county and Dimensions Healthcare System reached a partnership agreement on July 21, 2011 with the University of Maryland Medical System and the University System of Maryland for developing a comprehensive plan for improving health care in Prince George’s County, according to a press release from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

The University of Maryland Medical System, a private non-profit that gets significant funding from the state, analyzed the health care system in 2010 and determined that a new regional medical center was necessary to strengthen the county’s healthcare services, according to Seamon.

“This is not just about building a new hospital, it’s about a health care delivery system, ensuring that Prince George’s County is getting a proper amount of primary care, which includes in it a new regional medical system,” he said.

In addition to the development of the hospital, Seamon said there will also be a focus on increasing the amount physicians who can deliver primary care in offices near the new hospital.  

“Baltimore has ten hospitals for a population of 600,000 people, yet there are 900,000 people in Prince George’s County and only five hospitals,” Seamon said.

These 900,000 people make up 15 percent of Maryland’s population.

A year after the partners signed the 2011 agreement, the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health released their public health impact study entitled, Transforming Health in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Source: UMD School of Public Health

According to Chief of Staff of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Patrick Dooley, the study concluded that there needs to be an increase in primary care physicians and greater networking between the county, School of Public Health and the health care facilities in Prince George’s County.

The study consisted of a random survey of 1,001 county residents, 40 interviews with stakeholders, analysis and mapping of healthcare workforce, analysis of hospital discharge and readmission data, overview of private and public sector resources and interviews with leaders from 13 health care systems across the country.

One of the conclusions the study determined was that while 75 percent of residents have a “personal doctor” in the county, 10 percent of these residents go outside of Prince George’s County to see this provider.

“60 percent of people getting admitted in hospitals go outside of county, leaving 40 percent left. Insurance companies send them out because Prince George’s County doesn’t have best reputation in terms of quality healthcare,” Seamon said.

Of those who use a doctor outside the County, more than seven percent said their insurance required them to see a physician outside the county, and more than seven percent reported being unable to get an appointment with a specialist inside the county.

Source: Dimensions Healthcare System

The School of Public Health also found that there are “far fewer primary care providers for the population in Prince George’s County compared to that in surrounding jurisdictions.”

Special Advisor for the Office of Governor Martin O’Malley David Sloan said the need for more providers is mostly within the Beltway and in the southern region of the county. This includes Capitol Heights, Fort Washington and Greenbelt, which is on the cusp of the southern portion of the county.

The new hospital will replace Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md. and will be a 300-bed facility probably with the capacity of Laurel Regional Hospital and the hospital in Cheverly combined, Seamon said.

Laurel’s facility will remain a regional hospital and Cheverly will be shut down to become an area for primary care offices.

Seamon said the county, state and University of Maryland Medical System is considering three different sites for construction of the new hospital: Largo Town Center, Landover Mall and Woodmore Town Center.

At the recent Landover community meeting, 350 residents voiced their support for the hospital in their area, Seamon said

“The public has been very engaged and the press has also been following to make sure things continue along…You didn’t hear not once that someone didn’t want the hospital built there,” he said.

Seamon said the location is a joint decision between the county, state, and University of Maryland Medical System, but Dooley said it is ultimately a county issue.

From a medical perspective access to the Beltway is important, but from an economic development perspective easy Metro access is crucial for future hospital employees who commute this way, according to Seamon.

“I think it should be located at the place that provides the best combination of cost,  transit access, highway access and overall economic development impact,” he said.

Largo Town Center is located at a Metro station, and Landover Mall is about 1.5 miles away from the Metro.

Sloan said the state and county are both granting $200 million to the $645 million price tag, and the remaining $245 million will come from the hospital’s future revenue.

The Health Services Cost Review Commission regulates all hospital rates across the state, so the commission would have to approve an increase in rates charged to patients that go to the new facility, Dooley said.

In addition to bringing more general health care services, Sloan said it will become an anchor for the county and all of southern Maryland.

“It brings a much needed improvement for baseline healthcare. It is currently very old and there are a lot of underlying problems…This will bring together the educational community and health care professionals,” he said.

Sidebar Story: One mother’s experience in Prince George’s Medical Center in Cheverly, Md.

Charles County resident Linda Luttrell spent the past five weeks in Prince George’s Medical Center in Cheverly, Md. while doctors treated her son for traumatic brain injuries after his car and a train collided in Prince George’s County in early February.

Within the first day of her son’s stay, a neurologist told her she should give up and that he would not survive. He arrived at the hospital on Feb. 6 and is now in a nursing home and gradually improving.

Luttrell said during the first few weeks while her son was in the shock trauma unit, she could never find a doctor to speak to.

It wasn’t until a light fell on his head when a nurse was trying to insert an IV into his neck that they learned the most about his condition, she said.

“It was terrible. Four days in, he got a six-inch bed sore which is not ever supposed to happen,” she said.

Luttrell said her experience has been a nightmare and continues to be as they are still fighting for Medicaid since the hospital did not send their paper work over till Monday. She also said the caseworkers gave her the wrong paper work for applying for Medicaid, which further delayed the process.

“Prince George’s County didn’t send his records to Social Security. They didn’t mail it until this past Monday and they had since the end of February to do it…There’s a lot messed up there. They can build a new hospital,” she said, “but it won’t be worth it unless there are good, compassionate doctors. The hospital will just go down the tubes. You need more experienced, caring people with better bedside care. That’s what makes big hospitals better.”

Journalism & Environmental Science and Policy Double Major
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