- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

City officials have reached an agreement with the D.C. Healthcare Alliance that will keep afloat the $80 million public-private pact that provides health care for low-income District residents.

“The alliance is alive and well,” City Administrator Robert Bobb said yesterday at Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ weekly press briefing.

Mr. Bobb declined to provide details of the agreement, but he said it would cost the city less than the additional $18 million that Health Director James A. Buford said would be required.

“We’ve reached agreement with the hospitals on not only the budget issues for the next two years, but more importantly ways in which the alliance itself can provide stronger services, place more individuals in primary care and fewer individuals in emergency hospitals,” Mr. Bobb said.

He said the agreement was reached yesterday morning and would be formalized and presented to Mr. Williams this afternoon.

Officials said overall the D.C. government has projected to spend about $97 million on the alliance in fiscal 2003, which ended Sept. 30.

The D.C. Department of Health ruled Tuesday that Greater Southeast Hospital, the linchpin of the alliance and the primary health care facility for the District’s poor, could remain open in a limited capacity as it seeks to regain accreditation next month.

Greater Southeast filed for bankruptcy last year and has been operating under a provisional license — a consent agreement reached with the health department in August — that gave the facility 60 days to improve conditions in five major areas: fire safety, the emergency room, staffing, a quality-improvement program and record keeping.

“They have met all the major issues in the consent decree, and the Department of Health has issued a restricted license, which would limit them to 150 beds,” Mr. Bobb said. “However, they can come in and request additional beds with a business plan in terms of quality of medical care as well as financing.”

Mr. Williams would not comment on whether city funds would be used to help keep the bankrupt hospital operational, but said he remains committed to maintaining a solid foundation for the alliance.

“We’re going to be ever mindful of maintaining a viable provider network and we’re prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep that viable provider network in place subject to our budget constraints,” Mr. Williams said.

He declined to comment on what the District is prepared to pay toward a proposed hospital to be operated by Howard University on the site of D.C. General Hospital, which closed three years ago.

Mr. Williams also reiterated his willingness to work in partnership to help finance the construction of the hospital, but said the city is not prepared to own or operate it.

“It’s much too early to talk about what we’re going to be committing and the dollars involved,” Mr. Williams said. “There’s not $100 million lying around in some cupboard somewhere, so we all need to get a dose of reality as we enter into these discussions.

“A lot of options are on the table in terms of financing,” he said. “The goal is to work with Howard in a public-private partnership, which would include both the local government and, we hope, the federal government as well, and be able to put a package together that would allow us to reach our shared goal.”

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