D.C. should fo­cus on pub­lic health, not pub­lic hospi­tal

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

The much-an­tic­i­pated Floyd May­weath­erConor McGre­gor bout is must-see TV for sure, un­less you plan to be in Las Ve­gas for the Aug. 26 main event. If your thing is hav­ing a ring-side seat for Round 2 of the Vin­cent Gray-Muriel Bowser bat­tle royale, how­ever, start mak­ing plans. Just make sure you and your preg­nant sig­nif­i­cant other also have a Plan B.

That’s be­cause the District has shut down ob­stet­ric ser­vices for 90 days at United Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the lone full-ser­vice hospi­tal on the south­east end of the District. No de­liv­er­ies and no neona­tal care, which can place hard­ship on some moth­ers-to-be, es­pe­cially those who had planned to have their bun­dles of joy there.

Mr. Gray, who lost his in­cum­bent bid to Miss Bowser in 2014, has been push­ing to close the strug­gling United Med­i­cal and build a new hospi­tal near the Metro sta­tion in the Congress Heights neigh­bor­hood.

Now a D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber, Mr. Gray and his fel­low law­mak­ers agreed to be­gin a kitty to fund such a project.

So the Bowser ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to shut down mom-and-baby care at United Med­i­cal re­ally set Mr. Gray off, es­pe­cially since the city has yet to give a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion for its de­ci­sion. United Med­i­cal is mum, too.

The writ­ing al­ready might be on the wall for United Med­i­cal, which could not have sur­vived the past decade with­out in­fu­sions of pub­lic dol­lars and Med­i­caid/Medi­care money.

A pri­vate firm any day now could de­liver a re­port com­mis­sioned by the city. Huron Con­sult­ing Group was con­tracted to de­ter­mine how to run an acute-care hospi­tal from top to bot­tom, who uses D.C. hos­pi­tals for what ser­vices, who pays for those ser­vices and where na­tional health care might stand go­ing for­ward. (Of course, on that lat­ter di­rec­tive no­body knows.)

Ac­cord­ing to the D.C. De­part­ment of Health Care Fi­nance, Huron also would pro­vide:

● “An as­sess­ment of the range of fi­nanc­ing op­tions avail­able to the District of Columbia which of­fer the high­est value with least risk;

● “An as­sess­ment of the pos­si­bil­ity of vi­able part­ner­ship ar­range­ments for the District, along with an anal­y­sis of the var­i­ous man­age­ment archetypes for a new hospi­tal which ul­ti­mately re­moves the District from its cur­rent role of hospi­tal op­er­a­tor.”

It would prove help­ful to D.C. tax­pay­ers and res­i­dents if that re­port were in-hand be­fore Mr. Gray holds his sched­uled Sept. 22 over­sight hear­ing on United Med­i­cal as chair­man of the coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Health.

The in­for­ma­tion in Huron’s re­port would cer­tainly be help­ful, even if it barely touches on the pa­ram­e­ters of the con­tract.

In a press state­ment Mr. Gray re­leased this week, the Ward 7 Demo­crat said: “The fo­cus of the hear­ing will be up­dat­ing the Coun­cil and the pub­lic on progress to­wards rem­e­dy­ing the de­fi­cien­cies iden­ti­fied by the De­part­ment of Health. The fac­tors lead­ing to the De­part­ment of Health’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend ob­stet­ric ser­vices have not yet been made clear by the De­part­ment or the Mayor. The Com­mit­tee plans to hear from the Di­rec­tor of the De­part­ment of Health as well as lead­er­ship from the United Med­i­cal Cen­ter.” That United Med­i­cal might not at­tend the hear­ing is a pos­si­bil­ity. It’s hard for turn­around teams to con­cede they’ve not, well, turned around a pub­lic en­tity — whether that en­tity is pub­lic schools or pub­lic hos­pi­tals, ya dig.

In the case of United Med­i­cal, the city’s prob­lem is that elected of­fi­cials and their bureau­cra­cies in­sist on gam­ing a pub­lic hospi­tal, and the long-trou­bled his­tory of the fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances on such failed pub­lic poli­cies man­i­fested in ev­ery in­car­na­tion since Congress and Richard Nixon granted D.C. home rule in the 1970s.

One of the main prob­lems with the District’s pub­lic health poli­cies is that they are fa­cil­ity- and ge­o­graphic-cen­tric.

Miss Bowser should di­rect her at­ten­tion to rec­ti­fy­ing what’s not been done in the pub­lic arena to make D.C. res­i­dents health­ier since she beat Mr. Gray; and Mr. Gray needs to fo­cus his law­mak­ing on an agenda to make D.C. res­i­dents health­ier.

Those are the bat­tle lines when the coun­cil and the mayor re­turn from sum­mer break.

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