Prognosis for Howard General Hospital for sale: Board must put Howard County residents first in pursuing a deal.

September 09, 1997

THE IMPENDING SALE, or merger, involving Howard County General Hospital could cause some consternation in the community that has fed its growth.

In every corner of the county, there is bound to be concern that a "partnership" between HCGH and another organization could mean the loss of local control and the intangible sense of ownership that residents have felt about the institution in Columbia.

That is why it will be critical for hospital board members to work out a deal that is in the best interest of the community.

We are encouraged by the words of the hospital's president and chief executive officer, Victor A. Broccolino. He assures that the board will weigh proposals based on what is best for the community, the medical staff and employees. The hospital has built a mutually beneficial relationship with the community over the years.

The health center has grown remarkably in the '90s. The Howard Health System, the hospital's umbrella organization, has become a comprehensive network with 233 beds, 1,300 employees and an annual budget of more than $80 million. It has added specialty units and formed relationships that have dramatically expanded health service for patients.

Among the recent additions are the Central Maryland Oncology Center, which offers radiation treatments; the Central Maryland Heart Center, which performs cardiac catheterizations; and the pediatric emergency center.

Despite this growth, hospital officials believe they are not competitive enough in this growing region. Mr. Broccolino insists that the facility needs more medical technology, more sites, more screening, more centers for specific illnesses. HCGH is looking for a well-heeled partner to provide the resources to fuel an expansion.

This could benefit the community if it means greater health options. But residents should question whether there will be enough local control. They also must worry about whether a for-profit company, driven by the bottom line, will be among the suitors.

Howard's only general hospital is in an attractive position in large measure because of the community -- whose long-term well-being should matter most in any deal.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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