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Harsh Hospital Words

Rosalind Helderman

The stage is set for a real showdown on the Prince George's hospital next week.

Calvin Brown, the chairman of the hospital system's board of directors sent a tough letter to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) late today. In it, he proposed a counteroffer to Johnson's demand that four members of the board of Dimensions Healthcare System, the nonprofit company that runs the system, resign before Johnson releases any money to the troubled system. The board rejected that demand earlier this week.

Brown proposed instead expanding the board's membership from 11 to 15 members. Kirk Blackman, the current chairman of the Dimensions Finance Committee, would take one of the new slots. The other three would be filled through the same nomination process the board has been using to fill its public seats. The proposal mirrors one the board made in a letter in 2003. County officials were so enthusiastic about that idea that they never formally responded.

But Brown's letter did not stop there. He went on to outline the exact legal reasons why board members believe they are no longer bound by a February agreement to change up their boards' membership in exchange for county funds.

What's more, for the first time, Brown formally alleges Johnson is simply trying to take over the hospital system in an attempt to push it into bankruptcy. "The county has made no secret of its desire to see Dimensions go into bankruptcy and, if the county obtained control of the board, no doubt such action would follow shortly," he wrote.

Finally, Brown has an ultimatum of his own: He wants a written guarantee that the county will pay to keep the hospital open through June 2008--which he says will cost $33 million in all--and he wants it by the time the board meets next on Tuesday. Without it, he writes "the board will consider taking legal action to enforce the promsies made by the county, as well as any other options availalbe to it, including closure."

Johnson spokesman James Keary responded: "The leter was received. The County Executive has not reviewed it yet. It is a rather a lengthy letter. but no where can I find why they haven't yet done what they said they would do in February, and that is reconstitute the board and submit a plan to cut costs."

Keary said Brown's counter offer "just rehashes something they proposed three years ago that was soundly rejected" but he said it would be reviewed.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 29, 2007; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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