- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2017


Let’s give the report that gives passing and failing safety grades to America’s hospitals a new take on the sick hospital syndrome.

Two D.C. hospitals, one private and one public, received an F on the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, which was released this week.

The private facility, Howard University Hospital, is a teaching facility, and the public hospital is United Medical Center. Between the two, they provide care for a considerable share of the city’s and neighboring Prince George’s County’s black, poor and underserved residents.

Brushing Howard’s hospital aside for obvious reasons, let’s focus on United Medical, because its contract and its deal with a local firm to conduct an electrical systems do-over are the topics of discussion when the D.C. Council meets Friday.

The main problem at United Medical is not financial, although that’s what city leaders and hospital advocates would have you believe.

The chief problem is the stubborn political stance that the city needs a public hospital in the first place.

As in other major cities, blacks during and after slavery weren’t welcome as patients in most hospitals, and what’s now called United Medical Center has effectively become the separate but unequal hospital for blacks.

White, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islanders aren’t turned away for patient care. Such deliberate action easily would be construed as discrimination.

And the EEOC and human rights advocates would have a field day with biased employment practices as well.

Yet an ugly picture of prejudicial intent is revealed in the simple fact that elected and financial overseers of the nation’s capital insist on a public facility for black residents while building a doppelganger that would be located two stones’ throws away from United Medical.

Now, two other teaching hospitals, Georgetown University and George Washington University’s MedStar, didn’t get gold stars for patient safety from Leapfrog either, and Washington Hospital Center’s MedStar took a ding, too.

However, that City Hall is haggling over money and contracts is ludicrous. The city cannot afford a public hospital — whether it’s named Gallagher (former name), D.C. General (former name), Greater Southeast (former name) or Cafritz (former name).

To be sure, the problem isn’t so much a brick-and-mortar structure as it is the city’s failure to address the chronic health issues, chief among them STDs, heart and internal organs, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

D.C. leaders’ attempts to sustain a healthy, full-service public hospital have failed in the past, and there’s little reason to believe that their future attempts will fair any better.

Lawmakers and Mayor Muriel Bowser must be awakened to the life-and-death truth of the public health matter so they can see the sick hospital syndrome for what it is: They care more about their own political hides and godforsaken buildings than they do about human life.

Hmph. And they want you to believe that black lives matter.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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