PG County delegation: AAMC cardiac surgery program will hurt county's regional medical center

Meredith Newman
Prince George's delegation says it will not take the decision to have an AAMC cardiac surgery program "lying

The Prince George's County delegation had a clear message for the governor and the state health care commission Wednesday.

"Stop playing a shell game with people's lives," said Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. "The frustration you hear from us is: We're not going to take it. We're not going to take it lying down. We're not going to accept 'politics as usual.' No we're not."

The delegation— including the county executive, county council and senate and house delegations— held a well-attended press conference Wednesday about how a cardiac surgery program in Anne Arundel they contend will negatively impact the upcoming Prince George's Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Craig Tanio recommended AAMC receive certificate of need for a cardiac surgery program Dec. 30. Baltimore Washington Medical Center was denied the recommendation.

The state commission was set to make a final decision Thursday, but the item was taken off the agenda.

PGHC received a certificate of need to relocate this fall to replace the hospital in Cheverly and build the Prince George's County Regional Medical Center at the Largo Town Center. The plans has been supported by local Democrats for years, since they believe it will help improve health care for local residents.

Local politicians have become increasingly vocal about the Tanio's recommendation.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh wrote a letter to BWMC Monday, asking the hospital to withdraw its challenge to a cardiac surgery program at AAMC. And members of the Prince George's County delegation sent emails blasts to constituents asking them to campaign against the state commission.

The recommendation followed an almost two-year application process. Both hospitals in Anne Arundel County submitted applications for a cardiac surgery certificate of need in February 2015.

The recommendation for AAMC's program is in "blatant violation" of the Maryland state health plan, said Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-District 23A). She added that the plan is supposed to give all Marylanders the chance to access of health care.

"The commission's decision appears to have turned a blind eye toward the exact criteria it has set up," she said.

If a program is established in Anne Arundel, Prince George's ability to meet those numbers at the regional medical center will be "almost impossible," said Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21).

Despite representing both Anne Arundel and Prince George's, the delegate said Prince George's County deserves the cardiac care program.

"You would think it's uncomfortable to be up here, but I believe in doing what's right. And what's right is that we invested money and that we should give it time to make sure that it works, and that the law is behind us to give us the protection."

AAMC officials previously said in a statement that the recommendation "rightly concluded" the two cardiac programs can coexist. The hospital that "when health care is politicized, patients and families lose."

The politicians also commented on Gov. Larry Hogan's $43.5 billion spending plan, which would eliminate the money promised for the Prince George's regional hospital. The budget proposal would remove the $23.5 million that was expected during the next fiscal year.

The promise of those operating dollars put Prince George's hospital on the trajectory that it's currently on, said John Ashworth, senior vice president at University of Maryland Medical System. The hospital's parent company, Dimension Health, is part of UMMS.

Without the money, the hospital will stay at a "sustaining level" opposed to expanding its health care programs for residents, Ashworth said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller briefly spoke at conference, saying the county isn't going to stand the "undermining" of its cardiac care center. Prince George's County has "crossed the Rubicon," he said.

"It's do or die. We're going to make this happen," Miller said. "By the time the session is adjourned we're going to get the $23.5 million back in the budget, and Prince George's county is going to stand firm on this cardiac care or guess what? The session is not going to end on April 10."

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