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Community Members, Union File Suit to Stop Closing of LRH

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Community members and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents workers at Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH), recently filed suit in Prince George’s Circuit Court against private operator Dimensions Health Corp. (DHC) seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the planned closure of the hospital. The suit also seeks a preliminary and a permanent injunction from eliminating licensed beds or services at the facility.

Claiming that DHC is in violation of a lease agreement and a resolution passed by the Prince George’s County Council, the lawsuit contends that the hospital’s board cannot alone decide to eliminate beds or services at the facility. The plaintiffs, two Laurel residents and the union, say that they will suffer irreparable harm if the hospital closes.

In July, Dimensions announced plans to close the hospital and reopen the facility as a yet-unfunded $24 million ambulatory care center.

“I’m asking the court to stop the closure of Laurel Regional Hospital because the loss of their services would be devastating to me as well to my neighbors,” said Paula Adams, a Laurel resident and a plaintiff in the suit. “I’m 81 years old, and Laurel Regional is my medical home where I see my cardiologist and orthopedist. Our community needs the hospital. I don’t know what I would do without the staff and services there.”

Prince George’s County leases the land — on which the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, LRH and the Bowie Health Center are located — to Dimensions. In exchange for use of the public land, the lease states that Dimensions is obligated to provide “community services,” namely health care. The lease agreement, which was signed in June 1992, allows for the possibility for services to be eliminated, but only as the needs of the community dictate. The lease also states that the Prince George’s County Executive and the Prince George’s County Council may override Dimensions’ board if it decides to eliminate services.

In addition, a resolution passed by the Prince George’s County Council (acting in its role as the County Board of Health) in 1978 states that county health facilities may not close or substantially alter services without written approval of the Prince George’s County Council.