Maryland politicos and medical officials proclaimed Friday, Oct. 21 as one of the biggest moments in Prince George’s County history, the cause for celebration being the official approval of a $543 million state-of-the-art hospital proposal.
Dozens stood inside a vacant storefront at the Boulevard at Capital Centre in Largo to celebrate last week’s decision by the Maryland Health Care Commission to grant a certificate of need to build a hospital to serve not only Prince George’s, but also serve residents in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties in Southern Maryland.
“It was supposed to be raining, but we got the sun. That’s because it’s a new day in Prince George’s County,” said Betty Hager Francis, deputy administrator for the county’s Department of Health, Human Services and Education.
The 11-story structure, which will be known as the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, is scheduled to have a groundbreaking ceremony next spring or summer. It will include cancer and trauma centers, behavioral health services, a neonatal intensive care unit and serve to teach those in the medical profession.
To pay for the project, $208 million each will come from the county and state and the rest from Dimensions Healthcare Systems and the University of Maryland Medical System, which will own and operate the hospital.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who said a new hospital had been in discussions since his time as a state legislator in Annapolis more than 20 years ago, relayed the tale of he and his wife mapping out a trip from their home in Cheverly to have their daughter delivered at a hospital in D.C. instead of nearby Prince George’s Hospital Center.
On the way to D.C., Baker pulled over on Route 50, where his daughter was born.
“I don’t want anyone else trying to practice medicine without a license,” he said to laughter and applause. “More importantly, I don’t want anybody ever in Prince George’s County and this southern region to think they have to go elsewhere for quality health care.”
A Long Process
The certificate of need application from Dimensions to build a new hospital and replace the decades-old Prince George’s Hospital Center was placed on the state commission docket in October 2013, but wasn’t reviewed until 2015.
The state asked Dimensions for several revisions to its application, but it began to pick up significant traction this year.
Robert Moffit, a reviewer for the commission, wrote a letter this year requesting the size of the hospital, cost of the project and number of beds to be reduced in order to make the project financially viable.
A modified application was submitted in August with the cost reduced by more than $100 million to the current $543 million figure, the number of beds cut from nearly 220 to 205 and operating rooms from nine to eight.
Moffit recommended approval Sept. 30 once it was determined UMMS would manage and own the regional medical center.
More importantly, officials said, health care would significantly improve in the majority black jurisdiction.
The county’s Health Department released a 265-page report this year highlighting the main challenges are behavioral health, cancer and metabolic syndrome, a term that encompasses higher risks for a person to have heart disease, diabetes or strokes.
The report also states about two-thirds of county residents are either obese or overweight. In 2014, black adults had the county’s highest obesity rate at nearly 39 percent.
Although Prince George’s has five hospitals, the county “lacks quality health care providers [and] surrounding jurisdictions are perceived to have better quality providers,” according to the Health Department report.
“We waited a long time for this,” said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-District 27), whose district include Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert counties. “Thank you University of Maryland Medical System for picking Prince George’s County and thank you for coming up with $200 million to help us make this happen.”
The hospital, slated to open in 2020, will be built near the boulevard projected to bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue and thousands of jobs. In addition, a mixed-used development would also be constructed with 4,340 residential units, a 653-room hotel and businesses to become a transit-oriented community and the nucleus of Prince George’s.
County Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro couldn’t contain his excitement, especially with the hospital being in his district.
“When you look at this regional medical center, you see the heart of Maryland beginning to pump very vibrantly,” he said. “It means … we can come and receive our services and not to go beyond our borders to do. We are about to pump the vitality in this region.”