Hospital unit closing 130 will lose jobs; Gundry/Glass claims state owes $3.2 million in Medicaid funds; Health secretary says no; Center in Irvington treats children with psychiatric problems

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Southwest Baltimore psychiatric hospital for troubled children is closing its 29-bed inpatient center and laying off 130 employees, claiming state officials have failed to pay the facility $3.2 million in Medicaid funds it is supposedly owed.

Gundry/Glass Hospital's unit in Irvington, which treats children ages 4 to 12 who suffer from acute psychiatric problems, will close the inpatient program Sunday, said Dr. Sheldon Glass, hospital president. Patients are being transferred to other Maryland hospitals, he said.

Glass and Maryland health officials are locked in a dispute over who owes whom money. While Glass vehemently contends the facility is being cheated of millions in Medicaid funds, the state claims the hospital owes it more than $700,000 in disallowed Medicaid charges.

"All we needed to avoid shutting down this program was for the state's Medicaid program to process and pay us for at least part of what is owed to us -- now $3.2 million," Glass said. "But the Medicaid process has become so onerous that this hospital has suffered grievous harm."

Yesterday, Glass sent a letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening informing him of the shutdown of the inpatient center and labeling the situation as "the result of government at its worst."

"The state has handled this with a dehumanistic disregard for the children, the community and the employees involved," Glass wrote.

Glass said he is suing to try to recoup the Medicaid money. But Martin P. Wasserman, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said last night that Gundry/Glass "is in desperate financial straits" and is using any means possible to stay afloat.

"What is hard for me to understand is how they could possibly lay the blame at our feet," said Wasserman, who said his office tried to work with the hospital to find solutions to its financial problems.

"We have worked very diligently to make sure that the health-care provider industry is responded to quickly and appropriately," the secretary said. "But I also have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Maryland, and I cannot manufacture money."

The huge discrepancy over how much money is owed and to whom is centered on complicated formulas used to calculate how much money a health care provider is allowed in federal funds. Wasserman said an auditor has carefully reviewed Gundry/Glass' operations and can find no way to extend the hospital more money.

"We're very sorry," he said. "The sad part of this is that it's all financial; there have been no quality of care problems at this hospital. It's just not possible to give money we don't think they're owed."

Glass Mental Health Systems has two inpatient psychiatric facilities collectively known as Gundry/Glass Hospital -- 56 beds at Harbor Hospital Center and the 29 beds in Southwest Baltimore. The latter, at 2 N. Wickham Road, will be closed as of Sunday.

The company operates about 10 other mental health centers, Oakview Treatment Center in Ellicott City, and three methadone treatment centers. The layoffs of 130 employees represent about 32 percent of Glass' work force.

Among those who are being laid off are therapists, nurses, social workers, support personnel and cafeteria workers, Glass said.

He said a lawsuit is needed because of the wide gap in interpretation over what is owed. He said the state has never given him documentation about the $700,000 in disallowed Medicaid charges.

"We've moved to a lawsuit where a neutral party can look at all the facts and make a decision," he said. Glass said he has hired the law firm Weinberg and Green to sue the health department over the contested $3.2 million.

Pub Date: 8/13/97

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