- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2005

The D.C. government has agreed to pay off years of outstanding bills owed to Greater Southeast Community Hospital for providing drug-testing services to the city’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration.

The District plans to pay Greater Southeast $474,260 — or about half of the $959,996 originally sought by the hospital — under a settlement agreement recently disclosed by city health officials.

The hospital performed blood tests for the District between July 2001 to June 2002, when the city government contracted out the service to Greater Southeast. Previously, D.C. General Hospital handled lab services for the city’s detoxification center and central intake for the APRA. D.C. General closed in 2001 before converting into an urgent-care clinic.

Robert Johnson, senior deputy director for substance-abuse services at APRA, said at a D.C. Council hearing last week that officials put off paying Greater Southeast for the services because of concern about some of the invoices submitted by the facility.

Mr. Johnson told the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations that some invoices showed “sudden and unexplained increases,” compared with how much the city paid for blood tests through D.C. General. He said the rationale for increased costs wasn’t “apparent from the review of the invoices.”

Despite the settlement, the District and Greater Southeast remain in negotiations over another legal matter, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.

The District last year filed a claim seeking at least $5 million from the hospital in connection with a previous contract to administer the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, the city’s private insurance plan for the poor.

Attorneys for the D.C. Department of Health and the hospital have been negotiating a settlement over that dispute since last year. Greater Southeast emerged from bankruptcy last year. Under new management, the hospital has regained its full accreditation.

The D.C. Council is expected sometime this month to take action on the Greater Southeast agreement. It is one of more than a dozen so-called “retroactive contracts” awaiting the council’s approval.

In most retroactive contracts awaiting approval, the vendor has already provided the service and received payment from the District.

However, the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement has found that the contracts never received council approval.

City law requires that the council consider all city contracts for at least $1 million. Contracting officials say they are trying to fix the mistake by getting council approval on a “retroactive” basis.

D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, who is running for mayor, is expected to hold a hearing today to find out why 11 contracts that involve housing for the mentally disabled never received council approval.

Marsha Thompson, interim director for the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration, said last week that more than 360 group-home residents “will be at risk of being without a place to live” if the contracts are not approved.

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