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Despite scandal, UMMS hospitals and clinics offer high level health care

UMMS Board of Directors chair Stephen A. Burch and other members of the board met with Governor Larry Hogan and Senate President Miller. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

The physicians, nurses and staff of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) hospitals and clinics, along with the medical school’s faculty physicians, have been and are committed to the highest levels of care and healing for the citizens of Baltimore and Maryland.

Recently, The Baltimore Sun has reported on conflicts of interest and lapses in reporting by some members of the UMMS board of directors. I understand that changes are needed and will be implemented. But, as one member of the early executive leadership team of UMMS, I would like to call attention to the remarkable progress made since UMMS’s inception July 1, 1984, under two decades of visionary leadership from Dr. Morton Rapoport. That was the date that the legislature and governor detached the University Hospital from the University System, giving it a not-for-profit status with a separate board of directors. UMMS maintained its alignment with the medical school by requiring all physicians to be faculty, and by placing the dean, president and chancellor ex officio on the board.

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At that time, UMMS consisted of a hospital, trauma center and a contract to manage Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital. Total admissions were under 15,000 per year, the facilities were substandard, and technologies such as radiology and clinical pathology were woefully deficient as was information technology. The hospital had run at a deficit for years; financial accounting was limited at best. Nevertheless, the nurses were excellent as were many staff members, and the faculty physicians were eager for improvements. A strategic plan with a new mission, vision and values was followed by facility and technology renewal plans along with decisions as to clinical services for initial investment.

A public/private partnership led to a new state-of-the-art Shock Trauma Center and major renovations in the 1933 hospital building. This was shortly followed by the all new Gudelsky Building in 1994 and by the Weinberg Building in 2000. Skipping ahead to today, University Hospital, now called University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) admits over 50,000 patients per year, serving the local community, state and region for tertiary and quaternary care. The Shock Trauma Center is world renowned. The Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the elite NCI cancer centers with comprehensive designation. And the organ transplant programs such as kidney, heart, lung and liver are among the largest and finest in the country.

Meanwhile UMMS began to expand first with the acquisition of Kernan Hospital in 1985. Shortly thereafter the rehabilition program at Montebello was moved to a newly constructed facility on the Kernan campus; it is now the state’s largest and known as the UM Rehabilition and Orthapedics Institute. Maryland General joined in 1998 and now, as the Midtown Campus, is part of a larger integrated UMMC. North Arundel, now Baltimore Washington Medical Center and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (co-managed with Johns Hopkins Hospital) joined in the early 2000s,followed shortly by Upper Chesapeake (two hospitals), then the Shore Health System (Cambridge, Easton and Chestertown), Charles Regional and St Joseph’s. UMMS, with state capital assistance, is leading the renewal of the Prince George’s Health System as it becomes the UM Capital Regional Health with a new comprehensive hospital under construction.

Today, UMMS comprises 14 hospitals across Maryland with over 100,000 admissions, 1.4 million outpatient visits and 375,000 E.R. visits annually. The alignment with the School of Medicine and its faculty physicians is strong as it is with the other health professional schools on the UMB campus (nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and social work).

On the educational front UMMC is the principal location for medical student clinical training and hosts over 650 graduate physicians (interns and residents) in training. Chances are good that your physician trained at UMMC, as over 60 percent of Maryland physicians are graduates of the school, the medical center or both.

The General Assembly and the governor have been committed partners over the years, and I am confident that with their current and continuing support, the governance issues will be resolved in a manner benefiting all of Maryland.

Despite the recent upheaval at the board of directors, it is my strongly held belief that Baltimore and Maryland’s citizens can rest assured that the UMMS hospitals and clinics, in partnership with the School of Medicine, offer the best in health care, a healing environment, the training of high-quality physicians and research innovations that rapidly advance medicine for all.

Dr. Stephen C. Schimpff (Schimpff3@gmail.com) was executive vice president and chief operating officer of UMMS beginning in 1985 and CEO of UMMC beginning in 1999. He retired in 2004.

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