D.C. Councilman Vincent Gray said one hospital located in the East End of the District will not be enough to meet the health care needs of the residents there and a system will be needed for that purpose.
“D.C. is a tale of two cities,” said Gray, who represents Ward 7 on the D.C. Council. “On the west side, the health care services are the best in the city and in the country. However, further east, there are a dearth of health care services.”
Gray made his comments at a Sept. 6 panel discussion at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, “The Future of Health Care: The D.C. Hospital Report,” sponsored by the Washington Business Journal. He was joined on the panel by Wayne Turnage, the District’s deputy mayor for Health and Human Services and director of the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance; Dr. Hugh Mighty, dean of the Howard University College of Medicine and vice president of Clinical Affairs; and Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee, president and CEO of Providence and senior vice president and chief community impact officer for Ascension.
Sara Gilgore, the Journal’s health and innovation reporter, moderated the panel.
Gray said residents east of the Anacostia River need quality health care like residents in the rest of the city.
“There are 150,000 people who live in Wards 7 and 8,” he said. “We have a number of clinics and a United Medical Center that has outlived its usefulness. We have no urgent care center in Ward 7 or 8 at this point.”
There are plans to build a new hospital on the St Elizabeths campus in Ward 8. The United Medical Center (UMC), the only publicly funded hospital in the District that has suffered from financial mismanagement and recently losses in services such as obstetrics and gynecology, will be shuttered in 2023.
The St. Elizabeths hospital will replace UMC, according to District government officials. There have been concerns that the UMC will close before the St. Elizabeths hospital opens, but Gray quickly disputed that.
“I will not support in any way for UMC to close without the new hospital opening,” the council member said.
Turnage agreed with Gray, saying “the East End will not be hospital-less”
“UMC will still be open,” he said.
Gray said he continues to work with his council colleagues to see that Howard University College of Medicine has a role in the St. Elizabeths hospital “with George Washington Hospital as the manager being satisfied.” Howard University Hospital announced a deal on July 29 with Adventist Healthcare as its manager and Mighty said the transition could take place in January 2020.
Duperval-Brownless said Providence did close as a full-service hospital on April 30 but still has operations focusing on primary and community care in a clinical setting.
“We’re still here,” she said. “We will continue to serve the needs of members in the community, particularly the elderly.”
Before the panel started, Dr. Joseph Wright, interim president, CEO and chief medical officer of the University of Maryland Capital Region Health, spoke about the possibility that District residents will have access to the new hospital being built by the Metrorail station in nearby Largo, Md.
“The geopolitical boundaries are immaterial,” Wright said. “We will treat people wherever they come from.”