For Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant, there are too many health issues — such as diabetes and hypertension — plaguing central Prince George’s County residents. Yet, he said, there are too few places outside of an emergency room to get treatment.
Grant is trying to fill the void by working with Dimensions Healthcare System, the organization that manages the county’s hospital system, to place a federally-qualified health care center at Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly to treat the uninsured.
“We got to get people in there to address urgent care so we can get on top of these challenges as it relates to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, all of these issues that are prevalent in Prince George’s County,” said Grant, founder of the Health Empowerment Network of Maryland Inc., a group of county and state health care workers advocating for a new center.
It can take more than a year to apply for a federally-qualified health center, a nonprofit that receives federal funding to provide health care to the uninsured, underinsured, Medicare and Medicaid patients, Grant said. An organization trying to start a federally-qualified health center must apply through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and show proof the location would be in a medically under-served area, according to the HRSA website.
Prince George’s Hospital Center is ideal because of its central location and access to Metrobus, Grant said.
There are eight federally-qualified health care centers in Prince George’s, but only two are centrally located in Capitol Heights and Suitland. Grant said adding another center would provide more physicians in an area where they are in demand.
According to a report from the University of Maryland School of Public Health — “Transforming Health in Prince George’s County: A Public Health Study,” which was released in July — in the 20743 and 20747 ZIP codes that cover Capitol Heights, Seat Pleasant and Forestville, there is one physician for every 3,500 residents. The HRSA recommends a ratio of one physician for every 2,000 residents.
The study also listed asthma, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer as the five chronic conditions requiring emergency care in Prince George’s County.
Margaret White, a 44-year resident of Capitol Heights, said the area needs an additional clinic because her neighbors suffer with high blood pressure, diabetes and walking problems that require wheelchair access.
While White said she considers herself healthy, she said a new health center would solve another problem she has: a lack of nearby primary care physicians.
“I would love to have one in Prince George’s County,” said White, whose primary care doctor is at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. “... I have an hour traveling going and an hour coming back.”
John O’Brien, Prince George’s Hospital Center president, wrote in an email to The Gazette that he supports Grant’s desire to establish a federally-qualified health center on the hospital’s campus.
“Given the need, Prince George’s Hospital Center is in support of that. And even though the conversation has begun, there is still a lot of work to do, yet Prince George’s Hospital Center will do what it takes to move the county forward,” O’Brien wrote.