Once again, Prince George's County taxpayers are being asked to bankroll a sweetheart land deal. The beneficiaries of this latest abdication of responsibility are Laurel Physicians Inc., a group of doctors seeking to erect medical offices on a sprawling 50-acre parcel at the Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital. Dimensions Health Corp., which runs county hospitals, will sublease a half-acre parcel to the doctors for $10,000 a year, half its true value according to area developers. As if this weren't bad enough, the package includes another 3.5 acres rent-free.
Dimensions vigorously defends the transaction as a means of keeping the hospital's "loyal, heavy admitters" nearby. The group insists doctors will compensate for income lost from the free land -- $80,000 a year -- by bringing more patients to the hospital. The math goes like this: Each physician admits five new patients a year, which equals 200 admissions and $1 million in revenue.
It is outrageous for the council to sanction such a blatant giveaway at a time when the county is operating under massive financial duress. Dimensions, the source of this largess, is itself a perennial drain on county coffers, having obtained $7.5 million in subsidies since 1987. It reportedly is about to request another $5.5 million. Dimensions has missed no opportunity to push this unwise deal -- which could lead to unnecessary hospitalizations -- as a tool for economic development. Yet we fail to see the wisdom of putting up yet another office building in a glutted market.