- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

More than 36 physicians at D.C. General Hospital said yesterday they have worked at least three months without pay.
The cardiologists, oncologists and other specialists in the hospital's clinics also told the Washington Times they may stop treating patients if the situation fails to improve.
"I have treated some of these patients for more than 25 years," said cardiologist Dr. Nayab Ali. "I cannot turn them away, even if I am not getting paid. They are taking advantage of our weakness."
Another doctor said the situation is coming to a head.
"The ophthalmologists walked out three weeks ago and finally got paid," said the doctor, who asked not to use his name. "We got a week's pay two weeks ago after we complained. But this situation cannot continue."
Ana Raley, chairman of the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, said the doctors will be paid now that a bankruptcy court has released $17 million. Also, the federal government yesterday pledged $4 million in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and deferments.
"We are working with the courts to handle the money in arrears," she said. "They will be paid next week."
Last week, Greater Southeast terminated dozens of its doctors and those in D.C. General, effective Saturday. That followed a bankruptcy filed by PhyAmerica, a contractor employing the doctors, which stated it had not been paid for services at Greater Southeast.
Hospital administrators have been trying to negotiate extensions, but the contractor let the deal expire. The hospital now can find another contractor or hire the doctors.
The District implemented a private health care plan in the spring for indigent residents in which Greater Southeast took over inpatient and trauma services from a partially closed D.C. General. But the hospital and the doctors were forced to file for bankruptcy protection last week after their prime lender, National Century Financial Enterprises of Dublin, Ohio, filed for bankruptcy two days earlier.
Some people in the District's medical community predicted the plan would fail because it put too much pressure on other hospitals and relied on a financially unstable contractor.
The doctors also say D.C. General's outpatient medical clinics, which provide indigent patients with such services as surgery and cancer treatment, are overwhelmed. Patients now must wait two or three times longer than usual for treatment, they said.
They also say supplies are short, and the pharmacy is outdated and often lacks necessary medication. Some routine tests, they say, now must go to Greater Southeast, where machines reportedly are broken because bills have gone unpaid.
"We are operating in 1970s mode," a doctor said. "People aren't dying yet, but they will."
Mrs. Raley acknowledged the hospital has fewer supplies but "has not been negligent in care due to that."
Other D.C. hospital administrators say they have more patients because of the situations at Greater Southeast and D.C. General, but rarely are reimbursed for their services.

Washington Hospital Center officials said last week they will stop accepting patients from the alliance because of millions of dollars owed in reimbursements.
"This was an ill-conceived plan that has been mismanaged throughout the process," said John P. McDaniel, chief executive of MedStar Health, the hospital's parent corporation. "The burden on us has become overwhelming and we can't continue to play this game. The whole thing is a tragedy."
The District's medical community says it wants Greater Southeast back as a fully functional partner in city's health care system and wants D.C. officials to create a system that serves the indigent population without straining other hospitals and patients.
"Any of us can get sick at any time," said Robert A. Malson, president of the D.C. Hospital Association. "That is not when you want to find out how serious the situation is."
Staff writer Brian Debose contributed to this report.

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