The $2 Million Two Step
A circuit court judge on June 26 had given the county two weeks to make the payment, pending a hearing Sept. 10 to further discuss legal issues. But the court of special appeals issued a stay of that ruling on Aug. 1, which had put the payment on hold.
With today's action, the county must pay after all, said Steven Smith, an attorney for Dimensions Healthcare, the nonprofit company that manages Prince George's Hospital Center and several other county facilities. He noted the two week timeline the lower court had outlined for the payment has now elapsed.
"Our position is that it's due immediately," Smith said. "I would imagine we'd be in touch with the county within the next day or so and ask them where the money is."
Dimensions sued the county for $14 million, money company officials said was critically needed to keep the financially troubled hospitals open. That figure included $2 million county officials had said they would pay before the end of June and an additional $12 million that had been appropriated to cover hospital expenses through June 2008.
The money has been with withheld by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who alleges mismanagement. Johnson has said he will not release county funds to the hospital network until four members of its board of directors resign and the directors outline a plan to cut costs.
Dimensions has argued in court that the county had promised to pay the money and their board of directors had taken certain actions based on those claims. In July, the judge dismissed claims on the $12 million but he let stand discussions over the smaller figure.
In another legal twist in the ongoing legal battle, Dimensions on Friday amended its legal complaint against the county to make a new argument as to why the court should force the county to pay $12 million.
According to Smith, Dimensions now argues that only the County Council can impose conditions on money it has voted to appropriate and that, in the absence of council action, Johnson must disberse funds as it has directed. Smith said a judge will likely hear the new claim at the same time as he listens to further arguments about the $2 million payment on Sept. 10.
County officials blasted Dimensions for escalating the legal fight even though the court had already dismissed its claims to the $12 million.
"They're continuing to waste the resources of the hospital with these unnecessary legal expenses, and now they want to waste the time of the court over matters that have already been decided," said Johnson spokesman James Keary.
A last bit of Prince George's hospital news: Johnson may want him gone, but Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has selected Dimensions Doc George Bone to a new Health Care Access and Reimbursement Taskforce, where he will help make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly that could help out the hospital system.
Bone, an internist, has served on the Dimensions Board of Directors since 2002 but is one of the board members who has been targeted by Johnson for removal. He serves by virtue of his position with the Prince George's medical society. Johnson has asked that Bone resign so that the board position could be opened to the public and no longer reserved for the society. The society has strongly objected to the demand.
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