- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

A task force convened by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams to study how to improve health care in Southeast is recommending against building a new hospital, according a draft report.

The task force voted 10-5 to build a “healthplex” ambulatory care center rather than moving ahead with a modified version of the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) project.

The NCMC project is a $400 million venture between the District and Howard University to construct a medical center in Ward 6 on the grounds of the D.C. General Hospital, which was closed for in-patient services in 2001. The NCMC project calls for the city and Howard to split construction costs.

Mr. Williams initially backed the NCMC proposal when he introduced the plan in 2003. But he expressed reservations this year before convening the task force in April to study how best to spend $212 million set aside by the District to finance the NCMC project.

NCMC supporters are expected to outline their concerns about the task force’s proposals at a press conference today.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Williams yesterday referred questions about the draft report to the D.C. Department of Health.

Health department spokeswoman Leila Abrar declined to discuss the report yesterday, saying officials would discuss its findings after delivering a final version to Mr. Williams as soon as today.

According to a draft report of the panel’s findings, most task force members favor the so-called healthplex proposal.

Located at the D.C. General site, the healthplex would include a “comprehensive ambulatory care facility” with emergency services and primary and speciality physician offices.

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

In addition, the panel said it did not fully support using up to $212 million in city funds originally earmarked for the NCMC project to expand and renovate Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Ward 8 instead.

“Task force members recognized the importance of [Greater Southeast’s] location for residents living east of the river, but also noted both its history of financial problems and its ownership by a proprietary entity headquartered outside the District,” the report states.

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

The task force was in “substantial agreement” that Greater Southeast, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2004, should not receive city funds unless there is a change in ownership “under a transparent process resulting in not-for-profit status,” the draft report states.

There was no support on the panel for building a new, smaller hospital, such as a 50-bed facility, the report notes.

The panel was led by Dr. Gregg Pane, director of the D.C. Health Department, who did not vote.

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