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Lieutenant governor tours troubled PG hospital

CHEVERLY – The struggling Prince George’s County Hospital System is facing a much tougher year to get financial help from the state, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said Thursday, but he pledged to continue "our commitment to the survival of the hospital."

Brown said the state’s $1.5 billion structural deficit will make next year’s legislative session harder than the last one to create a stable funding source for the troubled hospital system.

"There are a lot of competing interests and that’s just to hold what we have, let alone improve in those areas that we want to," Brown told hospital officials before taking a tour of the center.

Along the way, Brown met Brian Boyle, a 21-year-old from Charles County who said he owes his life to the hospital. Now, he’s trying to call attention to saving it.

Boyle was flown to the hospital’s trauma center three years ago after a car accident caused him to lose nearly 60 percent of his blood. If the hospital’s trauma center had not been there, he would have had to go to Baltimore, an extra distance that may have cost him his life.

"I wouldn’t be here talking right now if it wasn’t for them – all the miracle workers here, the faculty, staff, all the doctors," Boyle said. "If this hospital shut down, so many people, so many families, would just be out of luck, and it would just be a scary thought."

It’s a scary thought that’s been on the minds of state and local officials for months. The hospital’s trauma center is relied on by people for many miles away.

Brown voiced disappointment while talking to hospital officials that a deal to create a new hospital authority to run the hospital fell apart in the waning days the last General Assembly session in April. Under that $329 million plan, the state would have contributed $158.7 million and the county would have been responsible for $170.3 million, but county officials balked at the idea.

"We stayed at the table," Brown said. "We continued in dialogue up until the moment that we were the only ones around the table. But we’re still at that table and our willingness to work towards that solution remains."

Now, the hospital is in a court battle. Dimensions Healthcare System, a nonprofit that runs the hospital, has a Sept. 10 court date in Prince George’s Circuit Court to get $2 million from the county.

Suzanne Almalel, a spokeswoman for Dimensions, said hospital officials are waiting for the outcome of the hearing to decide what to do next.

"We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there," she said. "We’ll call a board meeting and the board will decide that the next step is."

Dimensions also has requested that the Internal Revenue Service allow it to avoid payments on its pension plan until September 2008, a request that is pending.

The medical network includes Prince George’s Hospital Center and two smaller hospitals, Laurel Regional Hospital and Bowie Health Campus. It also includes nursing homes, the Gladys Spellman Specialty Hospital and Nursing Center and Larkin Chase Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. More than 180,000 people receive care each year at the facilities, many of them poor and uninsured.