- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

George Washington University Hospital is one of several facilities negotiating to take over operations of the emergency room at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital in a deal that could include startup financing from the D.C. government.

“Preliminary discussions would be the way to characterize it at this point,” said Dr. Richard Becker, chief executive of George Washington University Hospital. “We’ve looked for ways we can work with Greater Southeast over the last few years so it was a matter of taking one of our strengths and looking into exporting it there.”

Greater Southeast, the District’s only full-service hospital east of the Anacostia River, is rebounding after emerging from bankruptcy in 2004.

“There have been some early discussions, and we’re very excited about it,” said Erich Mounce, executive operating officer for Arizona-based Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. (DCHC), Greater Southeast’s parent company.

Colene Daniel, chief executive for DCHC’s D.C. region, yesterday said the company has talked about partnerships with five or six entities and that George Washington is one of them. She did not identify the other entities.

“We’ve just had some very preliminary discussions, but that’s it. Just telephone calls — no contracts, nothing of that nature,” Miss Daniel said.

She said it is not clear whether Greater Southeast will partner with anyone to operate its emergency room.

“We’re researching our options,” she said. “We may keep our service in-house with current management group.”

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and chairman of the Health Committee, said he favors the proposal. He said he learned about it in discussions with Miss Daniel.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Mr. Catania said, adding that a deal with George Washington likely would include funds from the D.C. government for startup costs, such as a better laboratory and a magnetic resonance imaging machine.

“These are early talks, but I hope that this will lead to fruition,” Mr. Catania said.

Mr. Catania has criticized DCHC’s management before the company’s bankruptcy, but said he would be open to having the city government contribute funds to expand the emergency room if the George Washington deal is completed.

“We realize Mr. Catania has been a critic of ours in the past, but we hope to work with him to do some very positive things for the city,” Mr. Mounce said.

The ultimate goal of a partnership between Greater Southeast and George Washington would be to increase the number of patients at the Ward 8 hospital’s emergency room from about 40,000 to more than 60,000 per year, Mr. Catania said.

The D.C. Hospital Association reported that Greater Southeast had 39,103 emergency visits in 2004, down about 3 percent from 2003.

George Washington Hospital had 54,351 emergency-room visits, up 2.2 percent from 2003.

Concern is increasing about emergency room availability east of the Anacostia River.

Proponents of a joint venture between the District and Howard University Hospital to build a medical center in Ward 6 have cited a lack of emergency services east of the Anacostia in seeking city funds for the deal.

The roughly $400 million National Capital Medical Center would be built on the grounds of D.C. General Hospital, which closed for inpatient services in 2001. The D.C. Council is holding hearings on the project.

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