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High hopes for new hospital in Prince George’s County

UM Capital Region Medical Center to be built after decades of mediocre health care services

Renderings for the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo.

A rendering of the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo.

LARGO — University of Maryland Medical System officials joined federal, state and local elected officials to officially break ground on the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Prince George’s County Thursday morning, an event decades in the making.

The officials hope that the new hospital and the medical system’s takeover of the former Dimensions Healthcare System will help turn around the perception of poor health care services in the county that long had residents seeking care in other jurisdictions.

“For decades, the citizens of Prince George’s County, southern Maryland and the region have not had the level of high-quality patient care that they deserve,” said Gov. Larry Hogan, a Prince George’s County native, in his remarks. “Now, with this much-needed project, in partnership with UMMS, more than one million people in Prince George’s County and southern Maryland will finally get the hospital that they deserve, and they will get access to some of the best doctors and nurses and health care professionals in the entire world.”

The new hospital, a 600,000 square foot facility, is expected to cost $543 million and is anticipated to open in 2021. Financing for the project came from the state, the county, and the University of Maryland Medical System.

Residents going outside of the county for health care has been a problem for the system for decades. In their remarks, Rep. Anthony Brown and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III both mentioned the difficulty of having children in the county.

Brown said he was told by doctors that if he wanted them to deliver their baby, he would have to find a different hospital than the one in Prince George’s County. Baker said his plan was to have his first daughter at Providence Hospital, despite living down the road from the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.

He ultimately delivered his daughter in his car on the side of U.S. Route 50 on the way into Washington.

The University of Maryland Medical System, which affiliated with the former Dimensions, now University of Maryland Capital Region Health, in September, hopes it can help turn the perception around and begin to improve Prince George’s County’s health disparities.

The majority of visitors to the county hospital and health centers come through the emergency room, not referrals for other services, said Bradford Seamon, the chair of Capital Region Health’s board of directors.

“When people need elective procedures, like your doctor says you need a hip replacement or you need a knee replacement, and it’s not an emergency, they choose to go somewhere else because they don’t have confidence in the program, or the program doesn’t exist at the hospital,” he said. “One of the main things we need to do is get people to come through the front door of the hospital instead of coming through the emergency room. You do that by building programs, and you build programs by bringing in resources.”

Some of those programs are already underway. The current hospital has become the home of a top-tier cardiac surgery center through the University of Maryland and the new hospital will include a comprehensive cancer center, in addition to other new programs.

To get to this point for the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Prince George’s health system, took a long time and a lot of effort. It took six years from a memorandum of understanding being signed in 2011 through the affiliation becoming official this year.

John Ashworth, senior vice president of network development for the University of Maryland Medical System, has been working on the affiliation for decades and said it took a lot of time and a lot of patience.

“The partnership just didn’t happen,” he said. “It was about building relationships and making sure those relationships held firm.”

It also took convincing a cautious medical system board, which was concerned about taking on the risks of Prince George’s County while it grew.

Ashworth said the board kept sending him back to the drawing board to come up with proposals. He cited issues including quality, Prince George’s County politics, and finances. Many times, Ashworth did not think a groundbreaking on a new hospital would be a possibility.

“This was hard,” he said. “It was a very deliberative step-by-step process that the extremely cautious board finally broke through.”

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