Prince George's County, UMd. plan new regional medical center

Today Prince George's County made a big push to improve health care for residents.

Using the results of a year-long study, local and county leaders and members of the medical and academic community announced the next step toward a new regional medical center.

Dr. Mohammad Naficy recently performed a life-saving operation on a patient at the Prince George's Hospital Center. Into the surgery, the doctor discovered something quite unusual.

"A clot, 27-centimeter in length and the thickness of my index finger," Dr. Naficy says. "It was pulled out from his pulmonary artery from both sides."

He says the patient's health scare was caused by excess weight. Obesity in the county is an issue highlighted in a recent University of Maryland study that shows 69 percent of residents surveyed as overweight.

"The county's disease burden remains high, when compared to surrounding counties in the state. especially for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer," says Dushanka Kleinman of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

That was just one of the findings released Wednesday by the school of public health.

The report also shows that the county has fewer primary care providers for the population, compared to neighboring jurisdictions. Plus, many residents are going elsewhere for medical attention.

"The fact that a lot of our patients are going out of the county for care and the fact that a lot of our doctors won't refer people into Prince George's County was disturbing," says Rushern Baker, Prince George's County Executive.

The new information will be used to help with the county's on-going mission to develop a comprehensive plan to improve health care, and ultimately open a regional medical center by 2017.

"It's not just people who can't afford healthcare, it's people who make choices about what type of health care and where they go, and so this will change it," Baker says.

Long time health care professionals like Dr. Naficy say an expanding network would help address the growing needs in his own unit.

"The affiliation with the university will definitely increase our ability to serve the patient in a broad range, such as transplant and pediatric surgery," Naficy says.

By 2013, a certificate of need will be submitted. In the meantime, a team of health officials and local leaders will be focusing on site selection and financing.