Aug 10 Forum & Open Letter from County District 1 Councilwoman Lehman re Laurel Regional Hospital Closing

Dear Neighbors, 

I am writing to urge your attendance at a public forum on the proposed closure of Laurel Regional Hospital, which employs nearly 600 people.

WHEN: Mon., Aug. 10, 4:30-6:30 PM 

WHERE: City Hall, 8103 Sandy Spring Road, Laurel

I was as stunned as anyone to learn of the plan to close Laurel Hospital. Why? Because it was kept entirely secret until last week. I got an inquiry about it last Monday from Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and then a personal call from a Dimensions corporate board member the night before the vote.

The board voted to convert the 103-bed acute care hospital into an ambulatory care center.  The proposal is for a brand new building on the hospital grounds to open in 2018 and coincide with the opening of the new Regional Medical Center in Largo.

This new center would not be in the repurposed/renovated hospital; it would be a new, stand-alone, $25 million facility (presumably taxpayer funded since Dimensions is on extremely shaky ground financially) -- with a limited service ER (because there will be no medical/surgical beds to which a person could be sent) and 20 or so "observation beds" that a patient could be put in for strictly 24 hrs if staff are not comfortable releasing him or her.

While I have heard many complaints over the years about the quality of care at the hospital, as taxpayers who have propped up this system for 30+ years, you should be concerned by this decision.

There was no transparency regarding the decision making process; there are claims it has been losing $1M/mo., $12-$15M/yr, and there is no hope of resuscitating it. Selling it was ruled out but no one can say why. I am withholding judgment until I see more detailed profit/loss statements, but suffice it to say I'm skeptical.

Also, I find it incredulous that Dimensions thinks taxpayers should spring for a $25 million glorified urgent care center right beside an empty hospital.
The 40+ acres of land and the current hospital building are owned by Prince George's County -- i.e., you -- so however you feel about the hospital personally, the financial impact of the closure on jobs, related economic development (docs' offices, laboratories and diagnostic screening centers, pharmacies and the rehab center across the street) and access to health care should prompt you to go and ask questions.

I have personally spoken with Dimensions President Neil Moore and Laurel President John Spearman; however, those conversations only prompted more questions. Why not sell the hospital? I asked at last Friday's employee meeting. Mr. Spearman said the consultant, Kaufman Hall, looked at that and ruled it out but he could not explain why. I have also talked to employees, other elected officials and the union, SEIU, which represents the clinical and housekeeping staff.

Regrettably, I will not be able to attend the meeting Monday, because I leave on a family vacation Sunday.  However, I am sending staff to represent me and will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds, ask hard questions and insist on accountability.

After 4 1/2 years in this job, I know better than to make promises I cannot keep, but I want to assure you I take this situation very seriously and will work hard to get the employees and the public the answers they deserve.

Mary Lehman

Mary A. Lehman
Prince George's County Councilwoman
District 1