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No details on Prince George's hospital plan until March

Thursday - 1/19/2012, 8:42pm  ET

We had hoped to soon hear more details on the proposed new hospital in Prince George's County, but we must cool our heels.

Saturday marks six months since officials from the county, the state, the University of Maryland Medical System and Dimensions Health System signed an ambitious agreement to pursue a $600 million regional medical center in Prince George's.

We thought the six-month mark was a big milestone because according to the agreement, "within four to six months following the execution of this agreement," UMMS was to report back to the government with details of a project proposal.

But UMMS spokeswoman Mary Lynn Carver says that will happen in March, not January: "The Phase 1 work is well under way and is expected to reach its milestone by the end of March. The signing of the MOU agreement marked the start of the MOU — not the start of the work. The teams then had to organize to do the work, which took a short period of time. They officially got under way Sept. 30."

The UMMS reports are significant because they will contain the first official, calculated projections on the cost and scope of a new hospital, as well as information on how the parties would build a network of supporting clinics, outpatient centers and doctors' offices throughout the county.

Even though all parties remain enthusiastic — they shared their enthusiasm with lawmakers during a hearing Thursday in Annapolis — it's hard for anyone to speak definitively about the proposal's likelihood of success until these numbers come out.

Two reports are in the works, said Josh Sharfstein, Maryland secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, in his testimony: One from KPMG and another from the University of Maryland's School of Public Health.

Also in testimony Thursday, UMMS indicated that its tentative, long-term plan would include taking control of Dimensions' smaller affiliates, Laurel Regional Hospital and Bowie Health Campus. The July 2011 agreement primarily deals with the new, major hospital to replace Prince George's Hospital in Cheverly — and UMMS' intentions to operate it.

"It is premature to speculate at this point, but yes, if a new regional medical center is built, then the current Dimensions facilities, including Bowie and Laurel, would be part of the master plan and would all be part of UMMS," Carver said. "Per the [agreement], there are very distinct milestones that have to be met before we move onto the next steps."

Meanwhile, the legislature and County Executive Rushern Baker are kicking around financing ideas, including slot machine revenue, but the source of the state money for the project remains in the realm of the theoretical until we get the study details.