- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday announced a plan that would pump $248 million into city health care systems.

The plan focuses on preventative care and the construction of a “healthplex” at D.C. General Hospital and several state-of-the-art ambulatory care centers in Wards 6, 7 and 8.

“The package that we’re proposing is going to improve access to health care for many underserved communities in this city,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s going to strengthen our network of care, and it’s going to allow us to devote resources to addressing critical health issues in our city.”

The mayor’s proposal is based on the recommendations of a task force he appointed this summer to consider alternatives to the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC), a $400 million proposed hospital on the grounds of D.C. General in Southeast, which he previously supported.

The new plan will devote $112 million for the construction of the “healthplex” and care centers; $10 million for cancer prevention; $10 million to help residents quit smoking; $10 million for chronic disease prevention; $6 million for a partnership between the National Institute for Medical Informatics and the D.C. Primary Care Association; $3 million to improve the city’s ambulance system, with $2 million for the purchase of new ambulances; and $1 million for the D.C. Hospital Association to conduct a study of the city’s urgent and emergent health care systems.

The plan is funded by money from a 1998 tobacco settlement between the tobacco industry and major cities to offset the cost of caring for persons made ill by tobacco products.

If passed by the D.C. Council, the plan would be the largest public investment in preventive health care in the District’s history.

“The amount of money the mayor is putting into prevention is unprecedented,” said Dr. Gregg A. Pane, director of the D.C. Department of Health. “When I hear people talk about health indicators in D.C. and where we have problems then putting dollars into prevention is very important.”

The District’s HIV rate is more than double the national average. The city also has high rates of cancer and diabetes, particularly in parts of Wards 7 and 8.

A spokesman for Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 council member and the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he supports the plan.

The bill, the Community Access to Health Care Omnibus Amendment Act of 2006, also would authorize the mayor to seize Greater Southeast Community Hospital under eminent domain if the hospital is not sold this fall and made a nonprofit facility.

Owners of the troubled hospital, Arizona-based Doctors Community Healthcare Corp., have said they are willing to sell the facility. It is not clear whether a sale will take place before Mr. Williams leaves office in January.

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