Community

D.C. Council Approves New Hospital at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8

Council member Vincent Gray Welcomes Area's First Health Care System

A new state-of-the-art, Level 3 community hospital to be built on the campus of St. Elizabeths in Ward 8 is moving closer from concept to reality following the D.C. Council’s unanimous approval on July 21 to replace the ailing United Medical Center in Southeast by 2024.

Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray, chair of the Committee on Health, who began leading the effort to build a new hospital when he was mayor, applauded his colleagues on the council for their support which also includes the addition of two new urgent care centers to be located in Wards 7 and 8, respectively.

“The most important thing for me is that this will be the first time in history that we’ve had a real health care system on the East End of the city, that being defined as collectively Wards 7 and 8, which encompasses, about 162,000 people,” Gray said in an interview with The Informer.

Residents and health care advocates, who held more than a dozen community meetings over the past two years, advocated for a Level 1 hospital with trauma services due to the high incidences of gun-related injuries and deaths in the area. Demands also grew in 2017 following the D.C. Department of Health’s decision to temporarily close UMC’s obstetrics unit, followed by the UMC board of directors’ decision not to reopen it due to costs.

Gray said the new hospital would encompass a host of services, including trauma care, “which I know has been a concern of a lot of people.”

“We will be able to cover 85 percent of what the health department now calls trauma care services in this one hospital,” Gray explained. “And, of course, it will have complete access to the trauma one centers, including Howard University Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Children’s National Hospital.”

Upon completion, Gray said, the hospital will have 136 beds, but it will be built to expand to 196 beds.

“That will make it easy to expand to a level one or two trauma care center if we get to the point where we need that level of care,” he said.

The new hospital, the first to be built in the District in over 20 years, will be part of the George Washington University Hospital health care system, run by Universal Health Services (UHS). According to its website, UHS is one of the nation’s largest hospital and health care services, with 400 acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities, and ambulatory centers across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.K.

When asked what the hospital will be named, Gray said George Washington Hospital.

“We felt that the quality of services having been provided by GW sends a particular message to people, so we felt it was important to try to keep the name as it is now. Because George Washington is now often referred to as the Foggy Bottom George Washington, this may be the East End, I don’t know. But George Washington will be the name of the hospital,” Gray confirmed.

Gray predicts jobs and significant economic development will emanate from the new hospital’s construction on and near the St. Elizabeths campus. He refutes the concern that the hospital will result in further gentrification in the area often considered the “last frontier” of African-American displacement in the District.

“What it has to do with is the many, many people who live in Wards 7 and 8 will finally have a health care system built for the people who live there now,” he said. “And that’s always been my goal since I was mayor – to be able to create the health care services that people desperately need.”

“I just want to get going,” Gray continued. “I’m just so glad to see this happen. I think some people have given up and I wasn’t going to give up on this; there’s too much at stake.”

The measure now goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her approval.

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