The only hospital east of the Anacostia River may soon experience mass layoffs after the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a large budget cut for the hospital on Tuesday.
United Medical Center in Southeast D.C. has faced problems for years, but District leaders have fought to keep it open until a new one can be built to replace it in 2023.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed $40 million to keep the hospital open. However, Council member Vincent Gray, who oversees the hospital operations, said the money is better spent on construction of a new hospital. He proposed $15 million for the budget.
“The management of the hospital has been so poor that the spending is way over budget. Therefore there have to be some fiscal measures taken,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said.
A spokesperson for United Medical confirmed that hospital’s board of directors sent letters to the staff warning of mass layoffs in the next 60 days but declined any further comment on what cuts will be made.
These changes will make it harder for residents in the District to access healthcare.
Roberta Lenoir, a nurse at the United Medical emergency room for more than 20 years, fears that if United Medical reduces services, residents of the area will flood hospitals across the district.
“Where are people going to go when they have to do hospital hopping, so that they don’t have to wait 10 to 12 hours,” Lenoir said.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage said service reduction shouldn’t cause any issues.
“You won’t see people being turned away because services are being reduced,” Turnage said.
The council’s final vote on the budget will happen next month.