» This Story:Read +| Comments

Get Local Alerts on Your Mobile Device

Text "LOCAL" to 98999 to get breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.

Troubled Hospital in Southeast Improves, Regains Accreditation

With the city's help, United Medical Center, formerly Greater Southeast Community Hospital, invested $30 million in improvements and renovations.
With the city's help, United Medical Center, formerly Greater Southeast Community Hospital, invested $30 million in improvements and renovations. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 2009; Page B01

After a near-death experience, months of intensive care and an extreme makeover, the District's most woebegone hospital, United Medical Center, formerly known as Greater Southeast Community Hospital, is up and running again and has regained a steady pulse. The hospital announced yesterday that it has gotten its accreditation back.

This Story

The Joint Commission, a group that accredits health-care organizations, confirmed the hospital's announcement that it had earned accreditation slightly more than a year after losing it in December 2007. A spokeswoman for the commission said that United Medical Center passed a surprise inspection last month and that its accreditation became effective Jan. 14, a week before the hospital was notified.

Specialty Hospitals of America renamed the hospital and with the city's help invested $30 million in improvements and renovations. Damaged and waterlogged top-level floors were refurbished. Broken radiology equipment was replaced, and the facility was no longer on the verge of running out of food for patients.

The Joint Commission awards accreditation based on a hospital's performance in specific areas to assure that patients are cared for in a safe environment. It studies infection prevention and control, life safety, medication management, record of care and treatment, whether the rights of patients are observed and other factors.

In a statement, the hospital's board chairman and president, Eric Rieseberg, called the accreditation "a milestone" that affirmed the efforts of "thousands of people who have worked hard to restore the community's faith in our hospital."

David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Council's health committee, said in a statement that the notion that the hospital would be reaccredited in slightly more than a year "seemed unlikely at best, impossible at worst" and that its staff should be "commended for the phenomenal progress they have made."

In summer 2007, the hospital, then Greater Southeast, was on its death bed. Doctors walked off the job after they weren't paid, and the emergency room was forced to shut down for at least a day. City inspectors discovered a shortage of workers and functioning equipment so severe that patients could not be properly treated. City officials and residents feared that the only hospital east of the Anacostia River would close.

Throughout that year, the hospital's problems worsened.

The Joint Commission gave the hospital a chance to respond, but new managers brought aboard after the facility was purchased by SHA in November 2007 couldn't mount much of a defense.

In the past year, SHA has made numerous changes.

A few days before its accreditation became effective, the hospital's chief medical officer, Cyril Allen, said the change was revolutionary. "You can smell it. You can see it," he said. "The physicians are all coming back."

Lack of accreditation can sink a hospital's spirits. Doctors don't like working with non-accredited facilities. Allen said the hospital must overcome its bad reputation east of the Anacostia.

Frank G. DeLisi III, chief executive of United Medical Center, thanked the District government for providing the funding that helped the hospital rebuild.

"We understand that they were taking a risk in rebuilding this facility," he said, "and by receiving our accreditation, we have shown that it was a risk worth taking."


» This Story:Read +| Comments

More in the D.C. Section

Fixing D.C. Schools

Fixing D.C. Schools

The Washington Post investigates the state of the schools and the lessons of failed and successful reforms.

Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods

Use Neighborhoods to learn about Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia communities.

Top High Schools

Top High Schools

Jay Mathews identifies the nation's most challenging high schools and explains why they're best.

FOLLOW METRO ON:
Facebook Twitter RSS
|
GET LOCAL ALERTS:
© 2009 The Washington Post Company