- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The much-anticipated Floyd Mayweather-Conor 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.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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