DC Council will hold the first of two votes on a new community hospital planned for the St. Elizabeth East Campus on July 6. The ‘New Hospital at St. Elizabeth’s Amendment Act of 2020’ provides for a partnership with Universal Health Services to build a George Washington University Hospital in Ward 8.
The District will invest $375 million to construct the hospital and a new ambulatory pavilion, as well as a $25 million reserve fund beginning in Fiscal Year 2024. UHS will invest $75 million in Wards 7 and 8 over ten years, including $21 million to establish two urgent care facilities, one in each ward. Construction is expected to begin in early 2022 and open in Fall 2024.
According to a June 23 presentation by City Administrator Rashad Young, the proposed hospital will have a verified trauma center with 24/7 general and orthopedic surgical availability, community-based ambulatory care and a full range of specialty services. Working with data from the District Health Trauma Registry, Young said the proposed trauma center is capable of treating 89 percent of trauma cases that arise in Wards 7 and 8, and 85 percent of gunshot injuries.
The hospital will also provide maternal care and newborn delivery services, with a Level 2 Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and a partnership with Children’s National Hospital.
Since the hospital agreement was announced in April, the District has faced questions about why the hospital does not include a Level I Trauma center. Young explained at the June meeting that Level 1 and 2 trauma centers require a minimum volume of 1,200 cases per year. There are four existing trauma centers in the region, Young said, but data shows the District averages 4,300 cases per year, not enough to support an additional Level 1 facility. There are 668 cases per year in Wards 7 and 8.
“This is not about a hospital, it’s about health care for our residents in Ward 7 and Ward 8,” said Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. (D) during the June 23 meeting. “As we put as a priority, as we say that black lives matter, we want to ensure that those lives really matter in this budget.”
At a public hearing June 30, local residents, health care works and leaders pushed for a jobs guarantee for the staff at the current hospital, run by United Medical Center. UMC workers are unionized, while those at GW Hospital are not. Provisions protecting UMC workers were inserted into a 2018 bill to create a hospital which runs the facility currently on-site. Councilmember Vincent Gray (Ward 7-D) referred to the amendment as a ‘poison pill’ in the deal.
However, according to the bill as is, UMC workers who meet certain standards will have priority in hiring, Young said at the virtual meeting, and additional training will be offered to those staff beginning in 2022 to ensure they meet those standards.
Asked why UMC workers required additional training for jobs at the new hospital, Young characterized it as an opportunity for employees to obtain additional credentials and training to be competitive for the new jobs with a new operator. “We’re not building a successor facility to United Medical Center,” Young said. “Just as with new opportunities at [other] new facilities, you must apply for them –this is that same circumstance.”
Speaking at the beginning of the online meeting, Councilmember White acknowledged the long-term efforts of Gray to bring a hospital to the east end of the city. “I think it’s imperative that we build a health care system to serve the needs of our community and I think the hospital is a great start to getting that done.”
Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray (D) chaired a ten-hour meeting of the Council Health Committee July 1, at which the bill was marked up for Council. He said the new hospital could help address the racial divide in health care access in the District, a divide made starkly evident throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. African Americans make up less than 47 percent of the District population, but account for almost 75 percent of those who died from the disease.
“This new hospital will serve as the catalyst for an interconnected he
alth care system of emergency care, urgent care, specialty care, ambulatory care, primary care, medical offices, independent physicians, and dentists for the 150,000 residents that live east of the Anacostia river and have never had a real health care system,” Gray wrote.
The first hearing and vote on the hospital bill begins online at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 7. You can watch hearings live via dccouncil.us