Veritas has removed its CEO but that's not enough for several D.C. officials. (Courtesy photo)

Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray has filed a disapproval resolution on a proposed $4.2 million contact with Veritas of Washington LLC, the vendor overseeing operations at the District-owned United Medical Center.

The councilman said there remains numerous questions, including the organization’s latest move to replace its CEO.

UMC/Veritas removed its CEO Luis Hernandez and announced that it will initiate a national search for a new chief executive, pending approval of the option year of the Veritas contract.

Hernandez will move to another role within Veritas and will continue involvement with the UMC-Veritas engagement, according to a letter written by Veritas President Chrystie Boucree.

Veritas officials are requesting that the UMC board take action to appoint Chrystie Boucree’s cousin David Boucree, who currently serves as principal at Veritas and executive vice president for Analysis and Planning at UMC, as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is selected and approved by the board.

“This is an indication of how serious the operational problems are at the United Medical Center,” Gray said in a news release. “Dismissal of the CEO is a Band-Aid approach to cover up the symptoms and vast shortcomings we continue to witness, but does nothing to mitigate the underlying problems. The systemic problems go beyond Veritas’ operational capacity.”

Gray, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and fellow Council members Mary Cheh, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman and Robert White filed a disapproval resolution on the $4.1 million proposed contract with Veritas for hospital management and operator services.

The pact was submitted by the nonprofit Hospital Corporation on Oct. 6. However, the disapproval resolution extends the council’s review of the contract from 10 days to as many as 45 days.

Since April 4, 2016, Veritas has received $9.8 million to operate UMC. If the current proposed contract is approved, the company will have been paid nearly $14 million.

“I have a singular goal with the operations of the UMC which is to preserve lives and improve patient safety,” Gray said. “I filed a disapproval resolution on this Veritas contract because of their consistently poor performance. The removal of their CEO is only an attempt to retain their $4.2 million contract. I have yet to see a plan that sets forth a strategic direction on how Veritas will turn around UMC operations.”

On Aug. 7, the Department of Health, in its role as regulator, suspended the hospital’s authority to continue operating the UMC obstetrics unit.

At a Sept. 22 hearing, Gray was unsuccessful in getting information from the Department of Health and Veritas on the factors that led to the suspension, he said.

In what observers noted as an unusual move, the councilman did not adjourn the hearing but simply recessed it, leaving open the opportunity to bring back Veritas officials for more questions.

Gray, who chairs the council’s health committee, has scheduled a committee public oversight roundtable on the Veritas contract for Monday, Oct. 30 at 11 a.m.

“The committee will hear from witnesses from the UMC Board and Veritas’ executive leadership of the hospital to make the case that Veritas’ performance in managing and operating the United Medical Center since March 2016 justifies extending this contract,” Gray said. “There needs to be significant additional progress demonstrated at the roundtable to make me believe an extension is warranted. Absent that, I will move to disapprove this contract on Nov. 7, 2017, and I will encourage my Council colleagues to support the disapproval.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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