Georgetown University Medical School has signed an agreement to take over responsibility for the physical health care of patients at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the U.S. government's troubled-plagued mental hospital in Anacostia which serves primarily residents of Washington.
In a speech yesterday to hospital employees, Secretary of Health Education and Welfare Joseph Califano also announced that Congress has appropriated $52.2 million for renovation and construction at the sprawling hospital, parts of which are in disrepair.
Sources familiar with the history of the hospital said the appropriation for capital improvements at St. Elizabeth's is the largest in the past 50 years, if not in the institutions existence.
The hospital lost its accreditation in December 1975 when the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals cited numerous deficiencies in the quality of car provided at St. Elizabeth's and in the hospital's physical facilities.
The hospital has failed twice since then to regain accreditation, and Califano last summer announced a major initiative designed to regain accreditation and restore the hospital to it's glory days as one of the nation's outstanding mental health facilities.
When he addresed the hospital's staff last summer Califano announced the appointment of a special assistant to his HEW staff whose sole responsibility would be the upgrading of St. Elizabeths and coordination of federal and District of Columbia efforts on behalf of the hospital.
However, Califano yesterday chided city officials for failing to move quickly enough to improve the integration of the city's mental health system with the federal hospitals.
"I believe the District could have moved faster than it has in achieveing a unified mental health system - much faster," said Califano, adding that he hopes Democratic mayoral candidate, make the development of that system "one of his first achievements,"
The HEW secretary said the agreement with Georgetown should reduce the cost of providing physical health care for the hospital's mental patients from $5 million a year to $3 million.
A major concern about the hospital has been the quality of its medical and surgical services," said Califano." . . . This arrangement (with Georgetown) will not only significantly improve the quality of patient care, it will do so at a savings to the hospital . . ."
Current plans for the hospital include using the $52.2 million to:
Renovate up to 1,400 acute psychiatric and chronic car beds.
Renovate up to 350 beds for criminal mental patients or those at the hospital for psychiatric evaluation ordered, by a court in connection with a pending criminial charge.
Renovate 50 beds in the District of Columbia Area D Community Mental Health Center, a city facility on the grounds of the federal hospital.
Renovate various patient support buildings and improve support services.
According to Califano, the renovation program will eliminate all the so called life-safety deficiencies cited by the JCHA as well as eliminating all "barriers to the handicapped" at the hospital.
Califano said the hospital also is studying and moving at a deliberate pace on the question of "outplacing" mental patients in the community. "Under no circumstances do we want to be guilty of the wholesale and individually insensitive dumping of mental patients in the community," he said.
At the same time as it is moving forward on St. Elizabeths, HEW has taken over control of the J. D. Johnson extended care facility in the District of Columbia from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and will place about 150 St. Elizabeths patients who need extended physical, but no psychiatric, care there.