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Hospital Conflict

Rosalind Helderman

When the Prince George's hospital system's board of directors voted Monday evening to reject County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D)'s demand that several members resign, the vote of one of the board members present wasn't counted. And it was a biggie.

In a closed door session just before taking up discussion of the executive's demand, the board voted that two of its members have a conflict of interest that prevented them from voting based entirely on their allegiance to the nonprofit company, Dimensions Healthcare System.

The group agreed that the county's two representatives on the board, Johnson Chief of Staff Michael D. Herman and County Council Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) couldn't vote on the critically important item. Exum was not present at the meeting, so the decision had little impact on her. But Herman's waving hand voting that the board accept Johnson's terms was ignored by Chairman Calvin Brown and the board's clerk.

According to those present during the secret discussion, one point that helped sway the board to bar Herman and Exum was Herman's admission to the group that he had been involved in drafting Johnson's written demand to the board. That indicated to them that his first loyalty was to his boss, the county's top elected leader.

Herman, however, objected repeatedly to the decision after the board returned to open session, questioning whether doctors serving on the board were not equally conflicted since they derive income from the corporation. The group's attorney replied he did not believe so, since he felt the doctors' jobs meant that their interests were aligned with the company's.

He also argued that because the board and Johnson both want quality health care for county residents, their interests are aligned and no conflict existed.

Critics of the county's role in hospital management have long argued that Exum and Herman are hopelessly conflicted when they take votes about the hospital's future as members of an independent corporate board. The boards willingness to go on record agreeing with that position only illustrates the depth of the split that now exists between hospital leaders and county officials.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 26, 2007; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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In my opinion, the board members in question should resign, along with our incompetent and corrupt public officials--including County Executive Jack B(ozo) Johnson, council chair and credit card crook Camille Exum, and most of the rest of our council--who have refused for years to do anything positive about fixing the hospital's problems. They seem to be good at delay, obfuscation, and brinkmanship, but absolutely worthless at finding or supporting any real solution.

Posted by: Diane C. Russell | June 26, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

This is a hard one. The hospital board doesn't seem like they are that great, but the County Council hasn't turned in such a stellar performance either!

As the previous poster notes - none of the players here are very interested in the business of the hospital.

For some reason I'm left thinking the county is interested in taking over not to revamp management and fix operations up, but to position themselves for selling off the property and channeling the development perks for their own pet projects.

Tough choice here.

Posted by: AnnR | June 26, 2007 8:03 PM | Report abuse

As far as I can tell, Delegate Doyle Niemann has the best proposal so far. His plan would take critical decision making on hospital issues out of the hands of the ego driven executive and council members, (who have shown themselves incapable of rational debate), and transfer it to the state delegation. Not perfect, but anyone got a better suggestion? If the executive and council are dysfunctional, what to do?

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 27, 2007 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Where is the community in all of these? Nobody even brings up the need to involve the community at large in determing what to do with this core community asset that is held hostage by Dimensions. The history of Dimension and the hand-shake arrangement with previous powers in the county are the main drag. Now at least we know that the County owns the asset, and that Dimensions has failed to manage the asset all these years. It is time for the larger Prince George's community to start talking about community hospitals and the health care/services asset of the future, which must be anchored in the unique entities that are represented in the Dimension's portfolio. Again, where is the Chamber of Commerce, where is the Medical Society, where is the faith community, what is the posture of the other hospitals and health establishments, where are the physicians in the community, what of the higher institutions,and the developers? The hospitals and services won't close. However, moving forward nessitates opening up the debate and addressing the health services the County needs to support its growth, and the mix of facilities to see same through. It's high time the community is empowered to address its health care needs, and therein lies the solution to the Dimensions quagmire.

Posted by: AnthonyI. | June 29, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I would agree that Ms. Exum and Mr. Herman should step down, as there is clearly a conflict of interest. I think all parties involved need to remember the people who use and rely on the services provided by Prince George's Hospital Center and the other facilities that belong to Dimensions.

The people and the provision of quality healthcare must be the focus. People from other counties and the District of Columbia will be impacted if Dimensions fails. Prince George's Hospital Center is also a trauma center. Anyone driving in the area that the trauma center serves will be transported there in the event they experience life-threatening injuries. Everyone in the metropolitan area should be concerned and vocal about what is happening to Dimensions.

Finally, Mr. Calvin Brown should also step down. He has placed a bandage over a gaping wound. He has not been able to successfully repair the wound or treat the complications. It is time for new and effective leadership and individuals who will move the system into the 21st century.

Posted by: Natalia | July 1, 2007 3:10 AM | Report abuse

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