Panel Named to Study Hospital Alternatives

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday named members of a new panel to explore alternatives to spending $212 million to build a hospital in partnership with Howard University.

The panel, consisting of city, health and hospital officials as well as council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and David A. Catania (I-At Large), will be asked to determine whether there are more effective ways to spend the money, which would be the city's contribution to the proposed 250-bed hospital on the banks of the Anacostia River.

At his weekly news conference yesterday, Williams (D) also said he wants recommendations about the best ways to deliver new health services to combat chronic city health problems such as HIV-AIDS, diabetes and colon and breast cancer. He instructed the panel to look at ambulatory care centers, urgent care centers and health clinics as alternatives to a traditional trauma center attached to a hospital.

The committee, headed by D.C. Health Director Gregg A. Pane, also will look at emergency care and finances at other medical facilities in the District, including Howard University Hospital and Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

"We put a proposal on the table in good faith,'' Williams said, referring to the proposed National Capital Medical Center. "But this proposal needs to be weighed against strategic goals.''

Williams said he would like for the panel to submit a report by July, although he would be "understanding'' if the committee missed that goal. In the meantime, he has asked that hospital-related bills pending in the council be "put on hold while the task force does its work.''

Williams said the naming of the panel should not be considered a setback for NCMC proponents. But the list he released yesterday did not include anyone from Howard or the two main proponents of the proposed hospital -- City Administrator Robert C. Bobb and council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7).

Sharon Gang, a spokeswoman for the mayor, explained later that the 12 members announced yesterday was a partial list and that additional members would be appointed later.

A Howard spokeswoman questioned the need for a panel.

"At this point, given that several members of the task force have been part of an organized campaign to derail the NCMC and, in doing so, are negatively impacting 252,000 residents in the eastern quadrant of the District that are without access to a Level 1 Trauma Center and the services that it provides, it is not clear to us what the investment of additional time will mean,'' said Jennifer James-Pryor, a Howard spokeswoman.

Bobb, who crisiscrossed the District promoting the proposed hospital, said he peruses every project "with gusto'' and did not take the mayor's change of heart on the hospital personally.

Gray said he declined to participate in the panel but that he would encourage fellow advocates of the proposed hospital to participate if they wanted to do so.

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