In a county where 80 percent of residents perceived access to health care as a problem, officials hope a new hospital in Prince George’s County hospital will help.
The county ranks 23rd out of 24 counties in the state for clinical care, according to the health research group the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
Officials hope that trend will change with the construction of a $543 million teaching hospital in Largo, which is set to open in 2021. Officials broke ground Thursday on the future University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center. The new facility will stand near a Metro stop in what County Executive Rushern Baker called the next Silver Spring.
High numbers of residents die from chronic diseases like diabetes, have chronic lower respiratory disease or suffer from obesity. Nearly a quarter of residents in 2014 delayed getting health care because of problems finding transportation or getting a timely appointment, a county study said.
The number of doctors in the county has remained stubbornly low for years; for each Prince George’s County doctor, there are 1,910 potential patients, according to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
That leads many patients to leave their home county for doctors in D.C., where there’s one doctor for every 880 residents.
While data shows many health benchmarks are improving, bringing more doctors into the county has proved a stubborn problem.
"You really almost have to have a teaching hospital in your community to attract the finest and the brightest," Pamela Creekmur, the county’s health officer, said.
But there are a number of obstacles between Prince George’s County residents and quality health care the hospital may not solve.
More than 93 percent of Maryland residents have health insurance, but 13 percent of Prince George’s County residents go without health insurance, recent data shows. Many people without insurance delay or go without vital medical care.
About 12 percent of black women and 11 percent of Hispanic women receive late or delayed prenatal care, according to one report.
Still, the new hospital will play a critical role in delivering health care to residents where they live, Creekmur said.
"It will be easier to attract doctors to our community, easier to lift the overall caliber of service," she said.
When the University of Maryland partnered with Prince George’s Hospital Center, it brought better surgeons to the area and began attracting more doctors to the area, Creekmur said.
The University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center is set to replace that hospital, which is older and not capable of delivering all of the care Prince George’s county needs, Creekmur said.
"It’s a long overdue thing," Creekmur said. "People in the county deserve this."