Resource item

Hogan administration removes privatization of Bd. hospitals from public works agenda – for now

A look at Western Maryland Hospital Center in Washington County. File photo by Hannah Gaskill.

The Hogan administration on Wednesday removed an emergency procurement item from the Public Works Board agenda that would have privatized some health care services currently provided at the state-owned Western Maryland Hospital Center.

But Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told members of the Public Works Board that the state will seek a more conventional arrangement to provide health care services in western Maryland later in the fall. . Schrader said the administration decided to change course after public criticism of the proposed contract and private bookings from comptroller Peter Franchot (D), one of three BPW members.

“We agreed with the wisdom of your position,” Schrader told Franchot.

The Department of Health wanted the Public Works Board to approve two contracts worth up to $125 million that would have allowed private entities to provide medical services currently provided at Hagerstown Hospital. But the contracts did not name specific suppliers to provide the services and only asked for permission from BPW to seek private companies willing to do the work, and critics warned the contracts could be a prelude to the privatization of all hospital medical services or closure. installation permanently.

Instead, Schrader said, the state will go through a regular procurement process to see if specific companies are willing to bid on the contract. The closing date for bids is Oct. 21, he said, and the health department expects the contract to be back before the Public Works Board in late November or early December.

Schrader said the state was looking to outsource some of the medical services to private entities because officials were concerned about the state of the hospital and the stability of the health care workforce in western Maryland. Thirty-eight of the medical center’s current 43 patients are nursing at home.

“We are struggling to keep the program and staff intact and we are very concerned about the state of the infrastructure,” Schrader said.

Franchot suggested the Department of Health will need to make a strong case for the contract when it is presented later this fall.

“There’s a lot of interest in this issue and I think people want to make sure we’re doing the best we can for patients,” he said.

In a statement, Council 3 of AFSCME, the public employees’ union which had issued warnings earlier in the week about emergency contracts offered by the state, said it was satisfied with the decision of the Council of public works to remove the items from the agenda.

“Instead of providing WMHC with the funds and resources it deserves, Governor [Larry] Hogan’s administration has repeatedly used nonsensical arguments and scare tactics as excuses to close the hospital, even though other watchdogs see no reason to strip the hospital’s accreditation,” said Patrick Moran, union president. “As Western Maryland’s need for quality healthcare services continues to grow, we stand ready to continue to fight to ensure that Marylanders in these communities have access to the healthcare services and facilities they need. need.”