D.C. Getting Back in the Hospital Business

Takeover of facility reminds some of old D.C. General days

By Tom Sherwood
|  Monday, Jul 12, 2010  |  Updated 7:47 PM EDT
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D.C. Government to Take Over Struggling Hospital

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D.C. Government to Take Over Struggling Hospital

United Medical Center, the only hospital east of the Anacostia River, is being saved by the D.C. government.
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The D.C. Council is expected to vote Tuesday to allow a city-run, nonprofit to operate the United Medical Center in far southeast Washington.

The District government seized legal control of the hospial assets Friday after the privately run facility failed to make payments on its debts to the District.

The takeover -- Mayor Adrian Fenty already has appointed some new board members -- has some people recalling the difficult days of the old D.C. General Hospital. It was a constant money loser until the federally-created Financial Control Board closed it in 2001.

The United Medical Center is the only full-service hospital in the District that's east of the Anacostia River. It's 186-bed facility serves a broad range of citizens, many of them poor, who have no other access to care.

Specialty Hospitals of America has run the hospital on Southern Avenue since 2007.  The District government has poured more than $100 million into the facility for loans, equipment and payoffs of vendor debts. 

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles told the council on Monday that saving the hospital "is the highest priority" of the Fenty administration. It appears that the council likely will vote for the mayor's nonprofit board as a stopgap while a new buyer is sought.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi acknowledged the hospital's importance to the eastern part of the District, but he warned the council that it must be prepared to spend more than the estimate $15 million a year to subsidize the hospital.

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