- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

The D.C. government and Howard University have agreed on plans for a hospital larger than the 110-bed facility proposed last year to operate at the site of D.C. General Hospital in Southeast Washington.

A memorandum of understanding between Howard University and the District, which Mayor Anthony A. Williams sent to the D.C. Council yesterday, calls for a “full-service, world-class Trauma Level 1 hospital that would contain between 200 and 300 beds.”

“I am excited about the potential of this project to strengthen the District’s healthcare infrastructure,” Mr. Williams said in a letter yesterday to Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat.

The memorandum of understanding “explicitly includes a commitment to provide healthcare for the underserved, which we know … is of utmost importance,” Mr. Williams said in the letter.

The D.C. Council passed emergency legislation in November laying the groundwork for the facility to be built. Council members David Catania, at-large Republican, and Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, proposed the bill, in part because of a lack of health services in Southeast caused by the closing of D.C. General in 2001 and by the bankruptcy of Greater Southeast Community Hospital last year.

The agreement from Mr. Williams calls for Howard University to receive a 99-year lease from city government, but officials continue to negotiate financing. The facility is at least four to five years away from opening.

Mr. Williams has said the city will not subsidize the hospital once it opens, but the D.C. government likely will contribute funding toward development and construction costs. Howard officials also are seeking funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.

Last year’s council legislation mandated that any agreements between the District and Howard University include a provision barring the D.C. government from managing the facility.

Under the legislation, the District would lease land from Reservation 13 in Southeast to Howard, which would build and operate the National Capital Medical Center.The center would include the hospital, a school of public health, a research complex and medical offices for physicians. How much of Howard’s current hospital campus on Georgia Avenue in Northwest would continue operating after construction of the new facility is not clear.

Howard University officials yesterday said they were pleased with the way negotiations have been going so far, although it’s too early to say when a final deal will be agreed upon.

“Negotiations are going very well,” said Jennifer James-Pryor, a spokeswoman for Howard University. “We’re enthusiastic about what the potential of this project will bring to strengthen the District’s health care and further demonstrate our commitment to the underserved.”

Howard University officials said last year that the loss of accreditation for its graduate training program in emergency medicine would not affect the school’s ability to build and operate a teaching hospital.

Howard’s current facility at 2041 Georgia Ave. NW has one of the busiest emergency rooms in the D.C. area, ranking behind only Children’s Hospital, Washington Hospital Center and George Washington University Hospital.

More than 45,000 patients sought emergency care at Howard in 2002.

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