Medical officials and Maryland lawmakers hope to attract dozens of new physicians to targeted areas in southern and central Prince George's County that are lacking enough primary care providers to serve residents.
The proposal is part of an ambitious plan to overhaul the county's struggling health care system. The plan was crafted now that the University of Maryland's School of Public Health has completed a survey of more than 1,000 residents. The study reached conclusions on the lack of care available in Prince George's and came to disturbing conclusions about residents' unfavorable perception of the county's health care system and residents' poor health.
The University of Maryland Medical System, which signed a memorandum of understanding with state and county lawmakers a year ago vowing to help with the overhaul, has begun to take an active role working with Dimensions Healthcare System, the cash-strapped organization running three hospitals in Prince George's.
With the university's help, officials plan to build a 278-bed regional medical center and a complementary ambulatory network with locations in Bowie, Cheverly and Suitland.
Accompanying primary care sites are needed throughout the county as well -- officials hope to attract 61 new physicians to Prince George's to serve areas without enough doctors.
Accokeek, Brandywine, Brentwood, Capitol Heights, Cheverly, District Heights and Langley Park were identified by university officials as the areas of highest need for new medical practitioners.
Those physicians could help lower preventable illnesses in the county, such as the 69 percent of county residents who are obese or overweight. According to the study, 17 percent have been diagnosed with prediabetes and 33 percent have prehypertension.
Most residents surveyed say they leave the county for care, and their first choice of hospital in the region is outside the county. Forty percent of residents have an unfavorable opinion of Prince George's Hospital Center, while 47 percent have favorable opinions about it. Other hospitals in the county are less well-known -- 13 percent of residents say they have never heard of Laurel Regional Hospital.
Officials are still figuring out how much all of this will cost -- the only estimate known so far is the roughly $600 million price tag of the new hospital. Now that the health survey is complete, officials will begin a several-month financial analysis of the plan.
County Executive Rushern Baker said officials plan to have more details about the finances of the project completed in time to present to state lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session.
"The thing the General Assembly's going to want to see when we go back in January is, what is the overall cost, not just the share of the state, not just Prince George's County's cost, because to them, that's going to [be needed to prove] viability throughout," Baker said.
Baker said the county and state have promised they will be able to provide their share of the costs -- the memorandum stipulates that the state, county and university will split the hospital construction costs evenly.