District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry has asked a group of private hospital administrators to meet with him Thursday to discuss their hospitals' policies regarding the treatment of persons who cannot afford medical care, and the transfer of some of them to the city's D.C. General Hospital.
Barry's call for the meeting follows reports of the death of Howard B. Smith, 28, who died 55 minutes after being told to leave the emergency room of Capitol Hill Hospital.
A spokesman for Barry said the mayor wants to get from [the administrators] their perceptions, guidelines, their responsibilities in regard to discharging and treating patients."
A recent study by The Washington Post found that 9 of 10 patients transferred to D.C. General Hospital from private hospitals have no medical insurance.
According to Dr. Stanford Roman, medical director of D.C. General, about 5 percent of the patients transferred each year are not in strong enough condition to be moved without serious risk.
Smith, who was injured in an auto accident March 2, was escorted from the Capitol Hill emergency room by District police, who were acting at the request of the hospital, after being treated for what was said to be three rib fractures. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later at D.C. General with 10 rib fractures, a lacerated liver, lacerated adrenal gland and with about two quarters of blood in his abdomen.
The Smith case, and the question of transfers, is being investigated by a congressional subcommittee. a city hospital association, the city's hospital licensing authority and the District's health planning agency.
According to Sheila Joroff, director of planning for the city's State Health Planning and Development Agency, the city's Health Coordinating Council has asked her office to seek a ruling from the Corporation Counsel on the question of whether a hospital's certificate of need can be revoked if it was issued based on "potentially erroneous information."
Earlier this year the council issued Capitol Hill Hospital an extension of the certificate of need for a renovation project, and "all along they have been giving information that they have an open door policy," said Joroff.
Ray V. Terry, administrator of Capitol Hill, said in an interview Sunday that Smith was "not thrown out" of the hospital, but was treated and then discharged.