The United Medical Center (UMC) board voted Monday to keep its current operator on a month-to-month basis after the D.C. Council voted earlier this month to disapprove an extension of their contract.
Veritas of Washington LLC will keep its job as the operator of the Southeast hospital, the only one owned by the city, for up to 60 days as part of a plan approved by UMC’s board. The plan also calls for the board to eventually hire a new firm to take over the hospital’s operations through September.
The council moved on Nov. 8 to disapprove a $3.6 million, one-year extension for Veritas amid allegations that the company had undermined the quality of patient care, leaving the hospital in jeopardy of shuttering. The current Veritas contract expires Nov. 30.
The board had until Dec. 1 to decide whether it would hire its own C-Suite to run the hospital or locate another firm to manage its operations and prevent closure.
“The hearing [to disapprove the Veritas contract] didn’t start a clock around planning for the future, it just put a timer on what we were doing without consideration of things that were already moving forward,” said board Chair LaRuby May. “We are very clear about what the end objectives are, and we are talking through any possible way to get there.”
May said the board’s ultimate goal is to have a “sustainable and successful hospital” that supports itself financially and offers patients care comparable to any hospital in the region. She said the hospital has traditionally had problems and that the board, on which she has served since April, “is focused on addressing them with a level of urgency.”
“That’s what we were doing before this vote and that’s what we will do now that the vote is over, and what we will do when the people on the dais that made the vote stop thinking about us because we’re not in the paper anymore,” May said.
The hospital’s upcoming budget is currently being redeveloped to account for new charges, including its current negotiations with George Washington Medical Faculty Associates to run its emergency department and inpatient units, procuring a new management firm and developing a plan for its obstetrics ward, for which a 90-day extension has been requested following a 90-day license restriction on the ward imposed by the city’s health department.
City officials and board members have said they expect the hospital to need additional subsidies.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was confident the board would make decisions that could keep the hospital open beyond the term of the current Veritas contract and ensured that the city would provide needed resources following the disapproval of the contract extension.
“The District will be willing to support [the UMC board] with whatever their needs are to make sure we have hospital operations at the conclusion of the [current Veritas] contract,” Bowser said.
The cost of a new operator is not yet known, but city officials believe it may cost more than the proposed Veritas contract extension of $3.6 million, with a total of $4.2 million set aside for incidentals.