- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

Internal D.C. Department of Health inspection reports show progress and setbacks in administrators’ efforts to keep Greater Southeast Community Hospital open.

Health Department inspectors found significant improvements in staffing, a reduction in waiting time and better management practices at Greater Southeast during inspections in August and September, according to records obtained by The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the inspectors also found that serious problems still occurred.

The emergency room was closed because of staffing shortages and a computerized tomography (CT) scan machine malfunctioned in August.

Regulatory failures, including CT machine problems, prompted the Heath Department to suspend the hospital’s license two months ago. Though inspectors recommended closing the hospital, Greater Southeast continues to operate under a 60-day consent decree with the Health Department.

The hospital’s fate can have significant impact on city’s health care because Greater Southeast is the primary hospital for low-income residents and the linchpin in Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ plan to privatize health care for the poor. Greater Southeast also is the only city hospital east of the Anacostia River.

Under the consent agreement, which expires tomorrow, the hospital must improve staffing, record keeping, power system equipment and emergency room operations to avoid closure. Health Department officials say it is too early to determine whether the hospital will remain open, and the internal inspection reports yield mixed reviews.

Emergency department staffing has improved, with at least two doctors and 10 nurses on call at all times; a new backup generator has been installed, and staff morale is improving, according to the inspection reports.

But during a Sept. 5 visit to the hospital, one inspector reported that the CT scan machine was not working. Health officials previously cited problems with the machine as one of the reasons for suspending the hospital’s license.

A CT scan machine is a large, tubular device that uses X-rays to take cross-sectional images of the interior of a patient’s body.

Subsequent inspection reports, however, showed the machine to be working again, and hospital officials last month said they were installing a second, backup machine.

The inspection reports also show that the emergency room was closed four days between Aug. 31 and Sept. 15 because of nursing shortages.

Even if health inspectors restore the hospital’s license next week, hospital administrators still must re-apply for accreditation. Greater Southeast lost its accreditation during the summer, prompting several health-care plans to break their contracts with the hospital.

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