- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

The owners of Greater Southeast Community Hospital yesterday told D.C. officials they would agree to the city Health Department’s terms for improving the hospital, where inspectors have pointed out deficiencies in areas such as nursing and blood management.

If the only full-service hospital in Southeast doesn’t make enough improvements in 60 days, it will be closed, City Administrator John A. Koskinen said after a meeting with the hospital’s ownership and representatives from the D.C. Department of Health.

“The conclusion today was that the hospital will craft a list identifying the work that they believe needs to be completed,” Mr. Koskinen said. “The regulators are pulling together a list, too. They’re then going to pull together the things that are the highest priority.”

He said the areas that must be addressed should be determined in the next several days.

Concerns over the hospital’s license come partly from a July 18 memo in which D.C. hospital inspectors recommended that the Health Department director close Greater Southeast because of deficient medical care and concerns with hospital equipment. Inspectors voiced similar concerns in March.

The Washington Post last week reported that the memo disclosed that inspectors considered at least six deaths preventable, among other matters they said endangered patients.

Mr. Koskinen said despite the hospital’s failure to make the improvements it has promised in the past, owners are optimistic they can keep their vows this time. He said there will be a clear agreement on what the areas of improvement are and by what date they need to be executed.

“They were giving time frames and coming back and having only parts of it done,” Mr. Koskinen said. “They understood why we needed to get into the regulatory period. Now they finish all the work in the 60 days or they don’t have a license.”

The hospital has held a provisional license since August 2002, when inspectors cited several problems with its medical care.

Had the hospital ownership rejected regulators’ terms, its license would have been revoked next week, but appeals could have slowed the revocation process, Mr. Koskinen said.

Greater Southeast, a private hospital, replaced D.C. General Hospital when the city ended inpatient care there in 2001. It serves as the main hospital for residents enrolled in the D.C. privatized indigent health care program.

D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, said she is pleased with the resolution.

“I think that option is a great option,” she said. “If the quality of care for patients in October is not improved, as much as I want Greater Southeast Hospital to stay open because of the economics of it and the people it serves, the lives of the people who use it are of too much importance for it to stay open.”

In November, the hospital’s parent firm, Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz., filed for bankruptcy protection. Several parties are considering purchasing the hospital out of bankruptcy, including Howard University, the chief executive of Doctors Community and several investment groups.

The hospital has treated an average of 145 patients a day since Doctors Community filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 20. It has 494 beds.

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