More than 100 area officials and residents gathered Thursday in Largo to celebrate the groundbreaking for the long-awaited University of Maryland Capital Regional Medical Center, a $543 million project two decades in the making.
The 11-story building, slated to include a cancer and trauma centers and 205 beds near the Largo Metro station, will serve residents in Prince George’s County and three counties in Southern Maryland.
When the facility opens in 2021, it will replace the more than 70-year-old Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, one of 11 dignitaries to speak, told a few personal stories about spending time at the hospital in Cheverly when his wife became ill. He briefly explained how he became closer with doctors, nurses and staff and other patients’ families.
“We are building a building today, but that is not what we’re doing,” he said. “What we are doing is giving hope to those who come in there and don’t know the people they are trusting their loved one to. What we are providing is that level of comfort and hope to people we don’t know and may not thank us on their way out, but we are thankful they are there.”
Officials have said the hospital will help improve health care in the largely Black jurisdiction plagued by high rates of obesity, heart diseases and other ailments.
The ceremony took place on the grounds of the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, which may encompass new businesses and with a name change — Indigo, to reflect the Blue and Silver lines at the Largo Metro station.
According to site plans from Retail Properties of America, which owns the boulevard property, 53 of the 77 units at the boulevard are available to lease.
A project touted as one of the most important projects in recent county history didn’t go smoothly, particularly regarding the certificate of need, which took three years to receive state approval.
Gov. Larry Hogan, who grew up in the county, admitted that officials engaged in “spirited negotiations” for funding the new hospital.
“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,” he said. “I am proud to have been a strong supporter of this project since day one. I am pleased we are finally able to get this vital project underway.”
County officials have attempted to change the reputation of Prince George’s Hospital, which fights the perceptions of bad customer service, lack of care and dilapidated conditions.
Although Prince George’s has five hospitals, the county’s health department noted in a report last year “the county lacks quality health care providers [and] surrounding jurisdictions are perceived to have better quality providers.”
The hospital’s status took another hit when its neonatal intensive care unit closed twice last year after several patients tested for potentially deadly bacteria.
The University of Maryland Medical System, which state officials sought as favorable when it would manage the new regional medical center, has worked to improve various programs at Prince George’s Hospital that received national recognition for cardiac surgery.
Since 2014, the hospital has performed nearly 300 procedures for patients who traveled from outside the county for heart surgery.
The hospital took a major hit last month when Oluwafemi Charles Igberase, also known as Charles John Nosa Akoda, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for fraudulently delivered babies and offered prenatal care for five years at the hospital. According to the district attorney’s office, Akoda, 54, of Bowie, used a false Social Security number to obtain a license in Maryland.
Several patients who received care from Akoda have filed a lawsuit against the hospital.
The hospital said it plans to defend itself against the suit.
“Dr. Akoda held physician’s licenses in good standing in the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” hospital officials said in an issued statement. “We are deeply committed to high quality patient care, delivered with compassion and an expectation of integrity from every member of our team. We are disappointed that our expectation of integrity was not met in the case of Dr. Akoda given his complex, sophisticated identity theft scheme.”