Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan presented a $43.5 million budget proposal for fiscal 2018 with a shortfall of $544 million, and options floated to help bridge the gap include cutting 400 vacant positions in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and rolling back some education programs.
For Prince George’s County, a major blow in the budget stems from not allocating $15 million in operating funds toward the new $543 million hospital in Largo, a project approved by the state in October. However, $11.3 million was allocated toward construction, according to Hogan’s proposal.
Senate Bill 324, also labeled the “Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center Act of 2016,” states $15 million would be included for fiscal 2018 by the governor. Another $15 million would be provided again in two years.
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.
“Governor Hogan is clearly reneging on his commitment to the regional medical center project, a hospital that will serve the residents of Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said in a statement. “I am concerned that Governor Hogan continues to be hesitant to fully support bringing the University of Maryland Medical System-affiliated regional medical center to fruition.”
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer cited hospital officials who stated the $15 million isn’t needed this year.
“[State Sen.] Mike Miller and County Executive Rushern Baker know this, too,” he said Monday. “It’s sad they’re deciding to play politics with this hospital that’s so important. The funding represented in the governor’s proposed budget is exactly what UMMS needed this year to keep the project moving forward. It’s as simple as that.”
UMMS spokeswoman Karen Lancaster said in an email Monday that no discussions have taken place regarding the operating budget.
Meanwhile, state officials representing Prince George’s have made the hospital project a top priority during the 90-day session, especially ensuring that the $15 million in funding is approved.
Officials said not having the money in the budget won’t delay the project, but operating dollars are necessary to ensure the project remains intact. A groundbreaking ceremony remains set for this year with the hospital scheduled to open in 2020.
“The governor is not acting on what is mandated. It is unfortunate that this is happening,” said Delegate Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor. “It doesn’t push the project back, but…the whole point was to have operational cost there in the budget. That is just common sense.”
The 11-story hospital will include cancer and trauma centers, behavioral health services, a neonatal intensive care unit and serve to teach those in the medical profession. It will serve residents in Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.
It will replace the more than 70-year-old Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, which has the state’s second-busiest trauma center.
A community meeting about the Largo hospital project and how it will affect health care in the county is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28 at Prince George’s Community College in Largo at 10 a.m. Those planning to attend are asked to register at www.pgplanning.org/PHCSP.htm.
“We need to sound the alarm in Prince George’s County to let our residents know how important the regional medical center is for the county,” said Delegate Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro.