- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Officials at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital vowed yesterday to keep the facility open, despite its loss of accreditation, an upcoming license review and fears of closure by health officials.

“We are working with the Medicaid managed care organizations and all of the commercial and managed care payers so that we can continue to provide quality patient care to our community,” said Greater Southeast Administrator Joan Phillips.

The loss of accreditation creates an uncertain future for the 445-bed facility, which has served as the District’s primary health care center for low-income residents since the closure of D.C. General Hospital in 2001.

Greater Southeast faces a license review by the D.C. Health Department in two months, and its financial troubles have raised questions about whether it can provide enough staffing.

Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz., which owns Greater Southeast, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations on Monday denied accreditation to the hospital after inspectors uncovered problems in infection control, anesthesia care, leadership and training during a series of visits in the past year, commission officials said yesterday.

Greater Southeast’s accreditation loss means that private insurers will not necessarily approve payments to the hospital. However, city officials said the hospital still will receive Medicaid and Medicare funding, which accounts for about 85 percent of its business.

Health industry officials feared that the commission’s announcement could signal the hospital’s eventual closure.

“I hope this doesn’t mean the second loss of a hospital in that part of town,” said Robert Malson, chief executive officer of the D.C. Hospital Association, a lobbying group. “It’s not something people are taking lightly. The community needs a hospital in that area.

“We’re coming into a major flu season,” Mr. Malson said. “If we have that or even something like [severe acute respiratory syndrome], another closed hospital would really challenge our ability to serve the whole community.”

The Health Department will decide in October whether to renew the hospital’s license or recommend that the facility be closed. City officials said yesterday that they hope administrators will make improvements to keep the hospital open.

“There have been some serious issues at the hospital for a year now,” said City Administrator John A. Koskinen. “Management seems confident that they will be able to meet the requirements. We’re trying to be supportive. There’s no guarantees, though.

“Either way, people should understand that if the hospital does close, it wouldn’t close outright. There would be a transition.”

Under a consent decree between Greater Southeast and the Health Department, the hospital will have to make improvements in five areas by October, including staffing levels and training, record keeping and administrative policies, power system equipment and building maintenance, and emergency department operations.

Hospital officials were confident yesterday that they could meet those conditions. If D.C. health regulators renew the license, the hospital officials also plan to reapply for accreditation.

The officials said in a statement yesterday that they were not surprised by the commission’s decision to remove the hospital’s accreditation.

The decision was made after four surveys were conducted between February 2002 and February 2003, Ms. Phillips said. “These surveys predate many of the operational and delivery changes that have been made at the hospital.”

The facility can reapply for accreditation but would have to demonstrate 12 months of compliance, said Mark Forstneger, a spokesman for the commission.

In addition to infection control and anesthesia procedures, the commission also uncovered problems in the areas of medication use, safety plans, assessing staff competence, organizing and social environment, according to the surveys.

The Washington Post yesterday first reported that the hospital has lost accreditation.

Nearby residents said they weren’t surprised by the hospital’s recent troubles.

“I was in there for the flu last year and it took 10 hours to get seen,” said Anthony Hagler, who lives on 12th Street SE, across the street from the facility.

“They have to do something there,” Mr. Hagler said. “But I don’t think closing it is the answer because then I’d have to drive to Maryland.”

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