Changes are coming to UM Laurel Regional Hospital

<p>Dimensions Heathcare System plans to close Laurel Regional Hospital and replace it with an outpatient facility.</p>

Dimensions Heathcare System plans to close Laurel Regional Hospital and replace it with an outpatient facility.

(Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Once considered an “aging hospital,” Laurel Regional is getting a second chance.

Under new ownership, the 40-year-old hospital is transitioning into a state-of-the-art medical center to serve Laurel and the surrounding communities.


In September 2017, the University of Maryland Medical System assumed ownership of Dimensions Healthcare System and renamed it University of Maryland Capital Region Health. At the same time, it also took over Laurel Regional Hospital and renamed it UM Laurel Regional Hospital.

The goal of the transformationl is for UM Laurel Regional Hospital to “be more than just a hospital you come to when things have gone bad and you need urgent care,” said Dr. Trudy Hall, interim president of University of Maryland Laurel Regional Hospital. “Health care delivery across the nation has been changing over the last one to five years pretty aggressively.”

Thirteen years ago, the health care delivery system in the United States was defined to be “in crisis,” according to a National Institutes of Health 2005 funded report. The report stressed that health care delivery options should be reengineered to make them more effective, efficient and productive and should shift focus to be devoted in the prevention and management of chronic diseases instead of just treating the diseases.

Dr. Uzochukwu Unegbu, a local Laurel family physician, was appointed the city' of Laurel's new Chief Health Officer in March.

In April, the University of Maryland Capital Regional Health invested $50 millionto build a 75,000-square-foot medical center on the current hospital’s campus. The investment would fund numerous things, including a brand new 24/7 emergency room, enhanced outpatient behavioral health programs and services, imaging [x-rays], labs, a pharmacy, outpatient surgery and short stay overnight care.

The new services are pending approval by the Maryland Health Care Commission, according to Hall.

“We are going to make better functional use of this campus to provide more services for health care,” said Hall, listing more services in wellness, integrative medicine and chronic disease management.

The new model of care’s goal is to reduce the need for hospitalizations, according to a University of Maryland Capital Health news release. Existing chronic care and inpatient rehabilitation units at the hospital will move to the UM Prince George’s Hospital Center by November. Current programs at the hospital, including chronic pain management, the lung health program, primary care unit, women’s health and the wound care center, will remain.

Mayor Craig Moe, who was heavily involved in efforts to keep a full-service hospital in Laurel, said he is pleased with the outreach UM has been doing as well as the university’s efforts to listen to community members.

“I think that it’s important to continue to engage the community, residents and businesses to let them know what is happening,” Moe said.

UM representatives attend City Council meetings every few months, to update both Moe and the council about the hospital’s transition. It is another opportunity, besides outreach meetings, for the community to tune in, Moe said.

Tiffany Sullivan, a senior vice president in clinical integration and ambulatory services for UM’s medical system, has been part of the community outreach team to report upcoming changes at the hospital to the public.

So far, more than 10 community groups have received a presentation, Sullivan said. The sessions begin with a presentation before the floor is opened for questions and dialogue.

Sullivan said the presentations benefit both the community and the outreach team.


“We get to clear up any misconceptions in the community,” Sullivan said. “There was a rumor that Laurel [hospital] was going away completely and that was not true. We put that rumor to bed.”

A new program at Laurel Regional Hospital allows pediatric dentists to use the hospital's operating room rather than their own offices for their younger, more high-risk patients and more complex cases. Doing so gives the dentists access to trained anesthesiologists and other hospital resources, which means they can do in one sitting what otherwise might involve multiple visits and a restless, often resistant young patient. And, they can do it more safely and painlessly as well.

The outreach team is comprised of many capital region health players, including marketing, community health, ambulatory services, population health, volunteer services, executive team members, medical staff office, external affairs and project management.

Sullivan is excited to see the focus of the hospital shift to wellness and primary care opportunities such as treating those with diabetes and chronic heart conditions

“This is an opportunity to create a campus unlike any other out there,” Sullivan said.

It’s crucial that UM continues to keep the public informed as the transition continues moving forward, Moe said.

“I think people are going to be pleased when the campus is fully developed and that all their medical needs will be met,” Moe said.

As other health care entities look to invest in the medical campus, the hospital can turn to the community and ask what its needs are, Hall said.

“Rather than be another hospital system that says ‘You know what? We’re just going to shut our doors and good luck; we wish you all well,’ we are saying we want to have a presence here and at least give you a health care delivery system that can address some, if not all, of your health care needs,’” Hall said.

The hospital could also become a teaching hospital for University of Maryland School of Medicine students, Hall said.

Additionally, the hospital is looking to expand its women’s health offerings, hoping to add more sub-specialty care, Hall said.

Construction on the new medical center is set to be completed by the spring of 2021.