- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that he supports a task force’s findings that favor building a “healthplex” instead of a new hospital in Southeast.

“I embrace wholeheartedly the recommendations,” Mr. Williams said during his weekly briefing. “To me, it represents a more targeted way to serve the health care needs of the residents, especially in the population most in need, the population in parts of Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8.”

Mr. Williams, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, previously supported plans for the National Capital Medical Center — a $400 million hospital on the grounds of D.C. General Hospital, which was closed for inpatient services in 2001.

But he expressed reservations this year before convening the task force in April to consider alternatives to the NCMC project, which calls for the District to split construction costs with Howard University. The city has set aside $212 million for its share of the costs.

The task force, which presented its report Monday, recommended building a healthplex ambulatory care center with emergency services and with primary and specialty physician offices.

The panel, which was led by city Health Director Gregg Pane, also favored opening other ambulatory care centers throughout eastern parts of the District.

In addition, the task force said it would support giving $80 million in funds to Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Ward 8 if it comes under new, nonprofit ownership.

Greater Southeast is run by the for-profit Doctors Community Healthcare Corp., which is based in Arizona.

The task force’s recommendations must be voted on by the D.C. Council before they can be implemented, and Mr. Williams said he thinks most council members will support the plan.

Council members David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, said they support the healthplex plan.

However, council members Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, and Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said Tuesday that they still support a modified version of the NCMC project.

Other members of the 13-member council were not available for comment yesterday.

Members of the 18-person task force who did not support the healthplex plan have said they will consider issuing their own report.

The task force recommended the healthplex in a 10-5 vote, with two members absent. Dr. Pane abstained from the vote.

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