- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

D.C. General Hospital's strategic use for triage in the wake of the anthrax attacks has some D.C. officials pushing to restore it to a full-treatment facility while others see it as handling "surge capacity."
D.C. Health Director Dr. Ivan C. A. Walks said the hospital's use during the anthrax crisis is "helping to shape what the long-term plan for the facility will be."
"We're looking for a comprehensive plan for the D.C. General campus," Dr. Walks said. "We're using it now to handle what's called surge capacity. Having it in its current condition is tremendous and necessary."
But D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said he believes the coming months will bring a push from the council to reopen the hospital.
And council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said Dr. Walks' statements sounded "far-fetched."
"It doesn't sound like real health care planning if you're going to base the future of a public hospital on something as unpredictable as terrorist attacks," Mr. Fenty said. "We need a hospital that will give needed treatment to patients who don't have insurance and live in that area and can't afford private care."
As many as 10,000 postal workers and private-sector employees have received free treatment at the hospital in the last week for possible exposure to anthrax.
"It's more than ironic to me that the mayor and Dr. Walks pushed so hard to close it and now it's the first place they're sending people to get treatment," Mr. Chavous told The Washington Times on Friday. "It speaks to the shortsightedness of the mayor's administration."
In a move strongly supported by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, D.C. General was closed in May when the D.C. financial control board overruled a 13-0 vote by the D.C. Council to keep it open.
In April, the control board signed a contract with the privately owned Doctors Community Hospital. Under that agreement, major trauma care and cases involving hospitalization would be transferred to the company's Greater Southeast Community Hospital, located across the Anacostia River.
D.C. General was reduced to an outpatient clinic, or little more than a large doctor's office. Mr. Williams fought hard for the plan as a way to save money and still provide clinics for uninsured residents, who had been using the hospital's emergency room for a range of illnesses.
The control board, created by Congress in 1995 to oversee D.C. government, has since been dissolved. It officially went out of commission last month, returning power to the city over such issues as the hospital.
Mr. Williams was unavailable yesterday, according to his spokesman Tony Bullock, who said council members who still want to talk about the hospital's closing are dredging up an argument that ended long ago. "People are looking for a reason to re-kindle the debate over D.C. General, which is really already largely decided," Mr. Bullock said. "Nothing that happened [at D.C. General] in the last week changes that situation," he said.
Still, council member David Catania, at-large Republican, said closing D.C. General has diminished [the citys] health care abilities and looking to the federal government for funding is not a bad idea.
"For a long time D.C. General has been seen as a local issue," he said. "It's not, and the federal government needs to see that. Let's not forget the postal workers who have been treated at D.C. General … are federal employees."
Mr. Catania said, "The District is a sitting duck, it's a target because of the presence of the federal government. The federal government has an obligation to help us help them in constructing a health care operation to address and respond to potential biological or chemical attacks and other forms of terrorism in this city."

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