LARGO – Twenty-three years ago, as Rep. Anthony Brown (D-4) prepared for the birth of his first child, he encountered a predicament he expects is all too common for families living in Prince George’s County.
“Our doctor said, ‘If you want your child delivered in Prince George’s County, you need to find another doctor.’ And, too many families in Prince George’s County heard that same thing from their provider, or their insurer, or made that choice because of a reputation about (the county’s) hospital(s),” Brown said.
These are some of the reasons an estimated 25,000 Prince Georgians go outside the county every year for their healthcare needs.
A new $543 million, 600,000 square-foot teaching hospital in Largo should help change that.
State, county, medical and University of Maryland officials gathered in the Boulevard at the Capital Centre on Nov. 30 to celebrate the groundbreaking for the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center.
“We are ready for our residents to return to this county for their healthcare needs and to erase some of the disparities in healthcare that have long plagued this unique and very special community,” said Neil Moore, president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Capital Region Health.
The facility will sit on a 26-acre site and will include an 11-level main patient care tower, two roof-top helipads, a 45-bay emergency department, a 15-bed specialty pediatric hospital, an ambulatory care center and medical office space.
The pediatric hospital will be operated by the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, which is co-owned by the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“For decades, citizens of Prince George’s County, Southern Maryland and the region have not had the level of high-quality patient care they deserve,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.
The medical complex, which will be located near the Arena Drive exit off Interstate 495, will include the second busiest trauma center in the state and the only neonatal intensive care unit in Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland.
Prince George’s County Council Chair Derrick Davis described the hospital as a “game-changer” that will instigate greater economic growth in the region.
“Today’s groundbreaking is a major step forward in a partnership that’s producing jobs, spurring economic development, investing in the Largo, Prince George’s County community, while providing quality healthcare to bring our residents back from far and yon to get their healthcare services here in Prince George’s County,” Davis said. “(Through) jobs, housing, retail opportunities, medical office buildings, all of the things that spur an economy, in partnership with workforce training done at the community college, we have transformed the opportunity here in Prince George’s County.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5) agreed the hospital will reshape the region.
“This new medical center adds to the county’s growing status as a regional healthcare and medical research hub,” Hoyer said. “It will also bring exciting new economic opportunities to Prince George’s County and our region that is growing and attracting residents and business investments with new opportunities.”
The development company that owns about 50 acres across the medical center site has already submitted plans for a movie theater and retail and residential properties to be built there.
Brown said the project began a decade ago with the commitment of former Gov. Martin O’Malley to establish a new hospital in Prince George’s County.
“I really want to thank you (state officials) for maintaining the commitment started 10 years ago by Gov. Martin O’Malley,” Brown said.
The state and the county will each contribute $208 million toward the project for a total of $416 million. University of Maryland Capital Region Health will cover the remaining costs.
Several speakers noted challenges that were overcome to bring the project to fruition.
Hogan referenced the “spirited negotiations” that took place over the hospital’s funding and Thomas Miller, Jr., the president of the Maryland Senate, noted that this project did not received unanimous support.
“There are people here from the (University of Maryland Medical System) board that didn’t vote for the project. There are people here from the dimensions board that didn’t vote for the project. There are people here from the county council that didn’t vote for the project,” Miller said. “This was a tough sell.”
This facility, which was approved in October 2016, will replace the current University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
The hospital services will include a designated stroke center, cancer program, critical care medicine, neurosciences, orthopaedics and women’s services.
The medical complex will be part of the14-hospital University of Maryland Medical System.
Construction is expected to be completed in December 2020, with a grand opening anticipated for March 2021.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III said the significance of the hospital for the county and its residents extends beyond the building’s physical structure.
“Yes, we’re building a building today,” he said. “But, that is not what we’re doing. What we’re doing is giving hope to those who come in there and don’t know the people they are trusting their loved one to.
“No, we’re not building a building. What we are providing is that level of comfort and hope to people we don’t know and who may not thank us on their way out. But they’re thankful we are there.”