Anne Arundel Medical Center is considering closing its last two neighborhood centers after years of steadily losing money on them.
An advisory board recommended last week that the hospital stop the financial drain by shutting the walk-in clinics in Severna Park and Crofton. The hospital's Board of Trustees is expected to weigh the proposal today.
Both centers opened in 1987, a year after the hospital launched one on Kent Island, to provide care for minor injuries and some diagnostic services to the county's growing population. Residents of outlying neighborhoods had said they wanted to avoid driving to Annapolis to get blood-pres
sure screenings or treatment for minor burns, cuts or sprains.
Although the clinics were opened as a community service, the hospital expected to break even, not lose money on them yearafter year, said Fran Counihan, vice president of marketing and public relations.
"We had hoped they would hold their own," she said. "But the community support just isn't there."
She would not revealhow much money they had lost, but acknowledged financial pressures prompted the hospital to close the Kent Island clinic in 1989. A group of physicians affiliated with the hospital took over the clinic.
The hospital's remaining two clinics soon could become another casualty of the sagging economy.
Coupled with the economic downturn, medical insurance changes and a shortage of health-care workers have prompted walk-in centers across the state to close in recent months.
Anne Arundel Medical Center has suffered several setbacks caused by economic woes in recent months, Counihan acknowledged. But she said that the hospital is financially sound and its "day-to-day successes" outweigh the problems.
In March, an ambitious plan by the hospitalto guarantee its long-term financial health became a victim of the poor economy. Rouse & Associates canceled a joint venture with the hospital to build a $50 million hotel, office and retail complex in Parole, a project touted as a key way to offset rising health care costs.
Faced with its own financial troubles, the Philadelphia-based development firm had frozen all new projects, including the proposed centerpiece for Parole.
At the same time, a government study on death rates for Medicare patients at hospitals across the nation showed Anne Arundel Medical Center had "more deaths, considering all causes, than predicted." The hospital was one of five in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area to have more deaths than expected.
A hospital spokeswoman called the rating a "statistical fluke" and pointed out that if only two or three fewer patients had died, the hospital would be within the acceptable range.
But the figures released by theHealth Care Financing Administration prompted the hospital to reviewits procedures for stroke victims, said spokeswoman Carolyn Tonty.