UM Capital Region Health/
Prince George's County officials hopes the hospital will transform health care in the county.
UM Capital Region Health/
The University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center has opened its doors, ushering in what advocates hope will be improvements to Prince George's County's health care landscape after years of waiting.
The 629,000 square-foot facility located near the Largo Town Center Metro station is replacing the 75-year-old Prince George's County Hospital Center in Cheverly. It was supposed to open in 2017, but faced challenges getting regulatory approvals.
"What a moment this is," said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks at a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday. "When we think about this building, it's so much more than just a building. I think back on this pandemic... when we couldn't come into this building because it was too dangerous to do so, we had to rely on the men and women in these buildings to stand by our family members who were suffering, some who died, and we couldn't be there with them, but they could."
Nat Richardson, Jr., president and CEO of the health center, says they're trying to change the way health care is administered in the county and the Washington region as a whole.
"We are driven to be the health and wellness partners you deserve," Richardson says in a video on the center's website. "The ones who fight stronger and harder to provide the quality health services you need throughout the entirety of Prince George's County... so you no longer need to travel outside the region for the quality care you deserve."
The medical center project was initially supposed to cost $532 million and have 235 licensed beds, but a state health care commission approved 205 beds — fewer than the Cheverly hospital — at a price of approximately $400 million in county and state funds.
Joseph Wright, the chief medical officer of the health center, told the Washington Post that despite the smaller footprint, the facility will have more patient-centered care than the old Cheverly hospital, with private rooms, modern design, and new technology.
The center is part of the larger University of Maryland Medical System, a network of 13 hospitals. It contains floors for children, cardiovascular care, a trauma center, and a neonatal intensive care unit.
The features of the hospital were based on a 2012 University of Maryland School of Public Health survey of health conditions among residents of the county. The survey found that in many parts of the county there was one primary care physician per 3,500 residents, a level that is below the recommendation of health experts. It also found that the majority of need for physicians was within the Capital Beltway.
At one point in 2016, the Maryland Health Care Commission — who's members are appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan — said the new facility was too big and expensive to gain approval, according to the Washington Post. But Prince George's County officials pushed back against Hogan, saying that the project would serve all of southern Maryland and that county residents were disproportionately suffering from conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The county was the hardest-hit in the state for COVID-19, with more than 85,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths.
At the ceremony Tuesday, Hogan reflected on the need for the hospital following the pandemic.
"While the long, hard-fought battle against the worst pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end, it has served as a reminder of the critical importance of equitable access to high quality health care services," Hogan told the gathered crowd. "Unfortunately, for decades Prince George's County residents have not had the high quality of patient care that they deserve."
Now with the center complete, county officials are hoping it will spur other economic development projects.
"We are not just building a hospital, we are building a future in Prince George's County and scoring a big win for healthy communities and a thriving economy," said County Councilmember Derrick Davis in a statement.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.