City-owned United Medical Center is requesting an additional $15 million from District taxpayers to help finance its turnaround after the previous owner defaulted on its obligations to the city.
United Medical Center’s board of directors wrote Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Thursday requesting that the District provide $9 million in direct funding as well as forgive a $6 million loan.
Bishop C. Matthews Hudson, the chairman of the board, wrote the funding would help fulfill Gray’s request that the hospital shift toward “ambulatory and physician-centric care.” The hospital, formerly known as Greater Southeast Medical Center, currently specializes in traditional acute care.
“The Board, hospital management, and OFCO [Office of the Chief Financial Officer] leadership met to collaboratively determine the financial support needed to maintain hospital operations and fund the restructuring effort,” Hudson wrote. “We came to a consensus that $15 million will be required.”
The only hospital east of the Anacostia River, United Medical Center has been plagued with financial problems for years.
To prevent it from closing, the District invested $79 million into the hospital when Specialty Hospitals of America acquired it in 2007. In 2010, the city took over the hospital after Specialty failed to make its payments to the city.
D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At large), chairman of the Health Committee, has become a chief advocate for keeping the hospital under public control. Catania argues the city has already invested tens of millions to upgrade the hospital as a resource for residents east of Anacostia River.
Gray and Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi have pushed for a quick sale, worried the hospital could become a drain on city resources.
Neither Gray nor Catania were immediately available to discuss the board’s request. In addition to additional city money, the hospital also plans to request $5 million from the federal government, according to the letter.
The hospital maintains its fiscal outlook has improved, including an $8 million profit in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
In October, a report by the Department of Health Care Finance recommended that the hospital readjust its mission to better compete, which prompted Gray to request that it focus more on ambulatory care.
“We are not just asking for money, “ Hudson said in a brief interview. “There is a purpose to move the hospital forward.”
Still, the request could spark a fierce debate on the council about the hospital’s future. On Tuesday, Catania got into a profanity-laced shouting match with Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) when Barry tried to question Gandhi on the state of the hospital’s finances.