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Debate Over Hospital Apology in Prince George's

Rosalind Helderman

The CEO of Dimensions Healthcare System, the not-for-profit company that manages Prince George's hospital system has apologized to the County Council for "hasty judgements" he made about the council in April, on the day after the council rejected a funding deal proposed by the state for the financially troubled system.

In a press conference on April 10, Dimensions chief G.T. Dunlop Ecker said the council's rejection to a state deal amounted to a "profound breach of public trust." Flanked by dozens of hospital employees, he announced an emergency meeting of the hospital's board of directors had been called to vote on closure or bankruptcy proceedings.

However, when that meeting took place eight days later, Council Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) and County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) announced the county would subsidize the hospital through June 2008, forestalling the need for board action.

In Ecker's letter, the hospital head wrote that at the time of his press conference, he was "not aware of the commitment of the Prince George's County Council to support directly the health needs of our patients and was under the mistaken impression that the failure of [the deal] would result in no more funding for Dimensions."

But did he jump or was he pushed?

In an interview today, a day after the Council posted the month-old letter on its website, Calvin Brown, chairman of the hospitals' Board of Directors said Ecker wrote the apology only after Exum demanded it in a closed door session of the board. Plus, Brown said, he doesn't believe Ecker said anything requiring an apology.

"I didn't see anything inappropriate in what he said," Brown said. "He's the CEO of the company and he has to get out and talk to the press about what's going on at the hospital."

Exum and other council members have said Ecker's statements caused unnecessary hysteria about the future of the hospital. They have said they believed the state's offer was bad for the county and their 15-month life-support plan will offer time to negotiate a better plan.

Brown said Exum asked the Board to adopt a formal resolution requiring Ecker's apology. After discussion, the resolution was tabled but Ecker agreed to write one anyway. "I think he's done a good job under very difficult circumstances," Brown added.

Ecker declined to comment.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 10, 2007; 3:33 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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