- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Greater Southeast Community Hospital will stay open for at least two more weeks while the D.C. Department of Health decides whether to close the troubled facility, health officials said yesterday.

For the past two months, Greater Southeast, the primary facility for low-income residents in the District, has been operating under an August consent agreement between hospital administrators and D.C. health officials.

Under the agreement, the hospital was allowed to stay open for two months if it addressed failures in five major areas, including fire safety and emergency-room staffing

That agreement expired Monday, but D.C. Health Department officials said it may be several weeks before Greater Southeast’s fate becomes clear. Until then, the hospital will be allowed to stay open.

Health Department spokeswoman Vera Jackson said hospital regulators will spend the next two weeks studying inspection reports so they can make a recommendation on the facility’s fate by Nov. 1.

The Health Department’s latest inspection reports show that the hospital has made some improvements in the past two months. Inspectors found improvements in staffing, a reduction in waiting time and better management practices, the reports show.

Still, the hospital emergency room closed several times in August because of a shortage of nurses. A CT scan machine also malfunctioned, the reports showed.

Miss Jackson said the inspectors also are awaiting other documents from hospital administrators. Those documents are due Tuesday.

A closure of the hospital would seriously affect the city’s health care system, as Greater Southeast is the linchpin of Democratic Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ plan to privatize health care for the poor.

Greater Southeast, the only city hospital east of the Anacostia River, receives much of its funding from the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, which is financed by the city.

Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. (DCHC), the Arizona-based company that owns Greater Southeast, declared bankruptcy last year. On Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge S. Martin Teel Jr. set an Oct. 28 deadline to submit bids to acquire the company’s assets. The judge scheduled the sale of those assets for Dec. 10.

Sources involved in the proceedings said attempts to attract buyers have been hampered by questions about whether Greater Southeast will be able to keep its license.

A group of executives from DCHC are among those bidding to take over the hospital.

DCHC Chief Executive Officer Paul Tuft met privately with Greater Southeast doctors last week. But neither the physicians nor company officials would comment on the talks.

Mr. Tuft’s company has been criticized for its Greater Southeast operations since buying the facility three years ago.

The company spent millions on bonuses for executives and more than $700,000 lobbying D.C. politicians and contributing to local political campaigns as troubles continued to build at Greater Southeast.

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