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Politics seeping into cardiac care decision
Capital - 7/16/2017
Anne Arundel Medical Center's long-delayed application for a new cardiac surgery program is tied up in court, to the dismay of local heart patients who don't want to travel out of the county for these delicate procedures. But having failed to persuade the Maryland Health Care Commission that the new program would harm their own services, Baltimore Washington Medical Center and Dimensions Healthcare Systems have the right to try their luck with a judge.
The process, however, is not supposed to get the politicians involved - let alone conscript the AAMC application for a supporting role in a constitutional confrontation. Unfortunately, some politicians in the state stare at you blankly when you use the word "nonpolitical." And, yes, we're looking at you, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.
The constitutional confrontation involves Gov. Larry Hogan's failure to get Senate confirmation for two Cabinet members he appointed last year: Wendi Peters for planning secretary and Dennis Schrader as health secretary. Earlier this year, the legislature's Executive Nominations Committee voted against recommending Peters and Hogan withdrew Schrader's nomination. Anticipating that Hogan would reappoint both officials after the session - as he did - the legislature stuck a provision in the budget that officials in Peters' and Schrader's position couldn't be paid in the coming fiscal year, which started July 1.
The governor and the legislative leaders are accusing each other of overstepping their constitutional bounds. Who's right? Obviously, the courts will decide.
Last week The Baltimore Sun reported that Doug Mayer, the governor's chief spokesman, said Miller told Hogan, Schrader and other officials that the health secretary's confirmation would go through if the Hogan administration "inserted itself" into the certificate-of-need process to block the AAMC application - an idea Mayer called "flat-out illegal" and "unethical without a doubt." Schrader confirmed Mayer's account by email. But the Hogan administration is not planning to file an ethics complaint against Miller. Perhaps it lacks a paper trail to back up the accusations.
Apparently incensed at what he called "spurious allegations" coming from a mere underling, Miller called Mayer a "pipsqueak" and said, "I'm not going to respond to these allegations from the monkey grinder." We surmise the last three words are Millerese for "organ grinder" or "organ grinder's monkey"; those under 65 who are still mystified will need to do historical research.
Miller sees the AAMC cardiac care program as a frontal assault on a new regional medical center for Prince George's County, slated to be built at Largo. And even if you don't believe what Mayer said, Miller has been around a long time and has lots of ways to throw his weight around.
Of course, what's at stake are patient welfare and the health care needs of a growing county, and the process is supposed to be immune to political interference. Either the process is nonpolitical - there's that word again - or it is not. If it's not nonpolitical, the process needs to be changed. If it is, the politicians - Miller included - need to keep out.