- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2001

Francine Cunningham of Southeast D.C. said what was on the minds of many who were angry over the looming closure of the city-subsidized D.C. General Hospital's inpatient wards.
"It is going to be devastating to this area," she said yesterday. "Where will these people go?"
She and other residents said removing doctors and hospital beds will leave them in a medical desert, with the nearest hospital nearly on the border of Prince George's County, Md.
A D.C. panel weighing bids to privatize the hospital at 1900 Massachusetts Ave. recommended Saturday that the hospital's contract be given to the Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
The move essentially closes D.C. General's inpatient facilities, leaving residents east of the Anacostia River without a neighborhood hospital, and could mean 1,250 employees will lose their jobs.
Greater Southeast has said it will close D.C. General's inpatient services. It plans to keep open outpatient services on the medical campus on Massachusetts Avenue.
D.C. General spokesman Bill Jones did not return several pages yesterday to comment on this story.
Neighborhood opponents of the plan, including D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, are organizing a movement to oppose any plan that includes shutting inpatient facilities at D.C. General. Mr. Chavous has scheduled a news conference for today to discuss D.C. General's future.
Southeast residents yesterday called the shutdown "a travesty."
Denise Tyler, of Southeast, said simply, "This is wrong."
Turning the hospital into what amounts to an emergency clinic is an embarrassment for the city because it shows officials cannot finance a hospital that serves the sick, opponents of the change say.
Those in the poorer sections of Southeast used to bank on the belief, true or not, that D.C. General would treat anyone with or without insurance.
They predict the private company that takes over the hospital will operate on a cash-and-carry basis, leaving those without health insurance in deep trouble.
"It's a shame," James Cunningham said as he stood beside his wife, Francine, in the hospital's parking lot yesterday.
"It's just a painful situation that the government cannot fund this hospital. They find money to finance construction and development in the city. But they can't fund a hospital that serves its own residents. It's like we're not human beings."
The Cunninghams said the shutdown will cause more problems such as overcrowding at other hospitals.
"It'll just the cost the city more money," Mr. Cunningham said.
Most workers at Public Benefit Corp., which runs D.C. General, six clinics and the D.C. school nurse program, stand to lose their jobs when the contract goes into effect.
Greater Southeast will retain 500 of the Public Benefit Corp.'s 1,750 workers.
"The city needs to do more thinking on this," said Michael Yao, of Southeast. "Obviously, no city official is going to be hurt by this because if they were they wouldn't do this. It's not only going to hurt us but it's also going to hurt those who work here. What are those people going to do when it's pretty tough finding jobs right now?"
Under the terms of the contract proposed by the control board, operation of D.C. General would be handed over to the privately owned Greater Southeast for up to nine years.
The board in November ordered the city to write a privatization plan for D.C. General and accept bids from companies willing to run the facility.
Greater Southeast and Urban Healthcare Associates each filed privatization plans.
Greater Southeast also will propose shifting services performed at D.C. General to other hospitals, including Howard University, which operates a teaching hospital, Washington Hospital Center and Children's National Medical Center, sources said this weekend.
Urban Healthcare Associates would retain all but about 5 percent of the jobs in existing facilities and keep open the inpatient facilities at D.C. General, according to its privatization plans.

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