The University of Maryland Medical System will soon run emergency rooms at all Prince George's County hospitals as a part of a four-way agreement among the university, health care providers, and county and state officials.
Dimensions Healthcare System, the financially struggling company that runs hospitals in Prince George's County, handed over control of the emergency rooms at Laurel Regional Hospital to the university system on July 1.
University officials are working jointly with the University of Maryland Emergency Medicine Network to eventually take over management of emergency rooms at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, likely in August.
Dimensions officials plan to relinquish responsibility of emergency rooms at the Bowie Health Center in 2013.
Changes will vary among the sites, as Dimensions has a unique contract to operate each emergency room, according to John O'Brien, chief operating officer of Dimensions.
Much of the staff at Laurel has remained intact, though under some new leadership. But the university system has been responsible for recruiting almost entirely new staff at Prince George's Hospital Center due to a contract that prevents Dimensions from hiring away doctors and nurses currently on staff, O'Brien said.
The transition is the most prominent move yet by the university system to become more integrally involved in Prince George's health care offerings under a memorandum of understanding signed by state and county leaders, university officials and Dimensions nearly one year ago.
Officials are trying to overhaul the much-maligned health care system -- the county spends roughly $15 million annually to help prop up Dimensions' operations of the county's hospitals and is seeking more cost-effective ways to run its regional medical network.
Having one contract to operate emergency rooms instead of three is one way to help drive down costs, O'Brien said.
"There will be better coordination between hospitals since physicians will be able to work seamlessly at all three sites, thanks to consistent policies in the system," he said.
Officials are in discussion with the university about three other clinical areas the school may be able to provide resources for in the future, said O'Brien, who declined to give details about the negotiations.
And a new $600 million teaching hospital is in the developmental stage, with the state, county and University of Maryland agreeing to split the bill for what would become the county's flagship medical center.
The new hospital could be open by 2017.