- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Supporters of building a hospital in Southeast yesterday criticized an alternative “healthplex” plan favored by a city task force convened by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

“Reports of the demise of the National Capital Medical Center [NCMC] are exaggerated,” health care activist Vanessa Dixon said, referring to a $400 million project that would construct a new facility on the grounds of D.C. General Hospital, which was closed for in-patient services in 2001.

Miss Dixon, other NCMC supporters, and D.C. Council members Phil Mendelson and Jim Graham yesterday said they continue to back plans for a new hospital, despite the task force’s findings.

The task force recommended against building a new hospital, favoring instead a healthplex ambulatory care center at D.C. General. Copies of its final report are expected to be released during Mr. Williams’ weekly press briefing today.

Dr. Bailus Walker, a task force member, called the panel’s final recommendations to Mr. Williams “flawed because the process was flawed.”

“When you have a flawed process, you get a flawed product,” Dr. Walker said.

However, Dr. Gregg Pane, director of the city’s health department, called the task force process “open and fair” in a letter Monday to Mr. Williams.

Dr. Pane said in a phone interview yesterday said the task force report leaves open how to spend the $212 million the District originally earmarked for the NCMC project.

He also said the NCMC plans aren’t off the table, but that the task force was tasked with exploring alternatives to the project.

The healthplex plan garnered the most support, followed by an enhanced version of the NCMC project, which entails a venture in which the District and Howard University would split the costs of building the hospital.

“Everybody was called on and every last question was answered,” Dr. Pane said of the panel’s work.

The healthplex proposal would include a “comprehensive ambulatory care facility” with emergency services and primary and specialty physician offices, the report says.

The healthplex’s plans also call for ambulatory care facilities throughout the eastern part of the District.

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said the District needs a new hospital. Too many city hospitals have to shut down their emergency rooms temporarily because of overcrowding, he said.

“The need is clear and it’s critical,” said Mr. Mendelson.

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he still supports the NCMC as long as it does not result in the closing of Howard University’s hospital on George Avenue in Northwest.

Members of the task force who did not support the healthplex plan, but who backed the NCMC project, said at the press conference yesterday they will consider issuing their own report.

Mr. Williams initially backed the NCMC proposal when he introduced it in 2003.

But he expressed reservations this year before convening the task force in April.

The task force sought to study how to best spend $212 million set aside by the District to finance its share of the NCMC project.

Dr. Victor Freeman, former president of the D.C. Medical Society, said the city doesn’t have enough hospital beds.

In some cases, hospitals have converted licensed bed space into offices, he said.

“At the root of the problem is a lack of in-patient beds,” Dr. Freeman said. “It’s an issue of patient dignity and patient respect.”

NCMC supporters said the plans will go to the D.C. Council when it reconvenes again after its summer recess ends next month.

“The real issue is what will happen when the council reconvenes,” Dr. Freeman said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide