- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Those for and against reopening D.C. General Hospital traded "what ifs" yesterday as the debate over the hospital continued months after it was ordered closed.
When anthrax was found on letters processed at the Brentwood postal center in Northeast in October, thousands of postal workers went to D.C. General for distribution of medical supplies and antibiotics to treat anthrax exposure.
D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, who wants the hospital reopened, asked what the city would have done if the building had been demolished.
He said the hospital the only health center in Southeast proved its worth during the anthrax scare, if only as a medical center large enough to test those who may have been contaminated by the deadly Ames anthrax spores that claimed the lives of two D.C. postal workers.
Mr. Chavous said it is ironic that the city health director, Dr. Ivan Walks, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams "used D.C. General for the backdrop of the anthrax investigation."
In a move strongly supported by Mr. Williams, D.C. General was closed in May when the D.C. financial control board overruled a 13-0 vote by the council to keep it open. Dr. Walks also supported the decision.
The issue even popped up among residents attending a public hearing of the council's Committee on Human Services yesterday, at which Dr. Walks was supposed to testify.
Before the hearing began, he told a local television station that closing the hospital worked out well, because if it had remained open the U.S. public health teams would not have been able to test or treat as many people.
Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, questioned what the city would have done had the tragedy of September 11 been worse.
"I wonder what Dr. Walks would have said if the fourth plane had hit the Capitol dome, and the emergency room was needed," Mr. Catania said.
On the day of the terrorist attacks, four hijacked planes terrorized the skies. Two crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York and another plane slammed into the Pentagon. A fourth plane, reportedly headed for the Capitol, was taken over by passengers and crashed in a deserted field in rural western Pennsylvania.
"D.C. General was a premier emergency room facility and would have been the closest hospital to the site … and I think his spin is ridiculous," Mr. Catania said.
Repeated requests for comment left at Dr. Walks's office were not answered.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Walks had been scheduled to testify before a D.C. Healthcare Alliance Oversight hearing before the council, but he couldn't because materials he was supposed to have sent to the council 10 days ago did not arrive on time.
"Dr. Walks' behavior was nothing short of disrespectful and completely unprofessional," said council member Sandra Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, in a written statement. Mrs. Allen, chairman of the D.C. Committee on Human Services, made the decision to not allow Dr. Walks to testify.
A makeup hearing has been scheduled for next Monday, Dec. 17, and a spokesperson for Dr. Walks said he would attend.

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