Laurel residents, workers union file suit to prevent Laurel Regional closure

Laurel residents and 1199SEIU Union filed suit Tuesday in Prince George's Circuit Court against Dimensions.

Dimensions Healthcare Corp., which operates Laurel Regional Hospital, is facing a legal challenge from two Laurel residents and the union representing the hospital's employees, a suit the plaintiffs hope will stop the hospital from being closed.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Prince George's Circuit Court, also seeks "a preliminary and permanent injunction from eliminating licensed beds or services at the facility," according to a press release the union made available

Dimensions plans to close Laurel Regional Hospital and replace it with an ambulatory care center, which is estimated to cost about $24 million.

The land where Laurel Regional is located is leased from Prince George's County by Dimensions. According to union officials, the lease states that Dimensions, as part of the exchange, must provide health care services to the community. While the lease does allow Dimensions to eliminate services, union officials said, those services can only be taken away if it reflects the community's needs.

According to the press release from union officials, the lawsuit claims that  Dimensions is violating its lease agreement, and that the "hospital's board cannot alone decide to eliminate beds or services at the facility."

In its statement, the union said language in the lease allows the county executive and county council to override a decision by Dimensions' board to eliminate services.

In a statement released from the hospital workers union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Laurel resident and plaintiff Paula Adams said closing Laurel Regional "would be devastating to me as well to my neighbors. I'm 81 years old and Laurel Regional is my medical home where I see my cardiologist and orthopedist. Our community needs the hospital. I don't know what I would do without the staff and services there."

Union Vice President Jennifer Epps said the decision to file the suit was reached after "countless times of trying to reach out" to Dimensions.

"[We wanted] to figure out what their process was [and] why they decided to do this, and to have the entire Kaufman Hall report," Epps said Tuesday afternoon. “They have not been involved so far and this is our way to try to make sure that this doesn’t happen unless you get the community involved."

Union representatives also point to a county resolution that requires the Prince George's County Council, acting in their role as the County Board of Health, to give approval of closing health care facilities in the county.

"The decision to close this full service hospital is yet another failure of Dimensions executives to operate their facilities in an efficient manner," Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said in a statement released by the union. "It was made in closed door sessions with no community involvement and without discussions with local elected officials. I question why the Dimensions leadership failed to provide the public with full disclosure of the information contained in the consultant's scope of work."

The hospital's maternal and child health care closed on Monday, and 11  medical/surgical beds are expected to be eliminated Nov. 7.

Epps said the union will continue to collaborate with the community.

“The workers definitely wanted us to pursue any avenue we could," she said. "We’re on the same page as the community and the members wanted to do everything that was necessary to save the hospital.”

Union officials said they have filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. That complaint alleges that Dimensions failed to provide the union with information on the hospital closing and subsequent job eliminations.

Dimensions spokeswoman Erika Murray said they have not yet received the suit.

This story has been updated.

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