Capitol Hill Hospital has contracted with a California based group of physicians to take over the operation of the hospital's trouble-plagued emergency room.
Capitol Hill came under fire earlier this year from city officials and citizens' groups following newspaper reports that on three separate occasions people had died shortly after being treated and discharged from the Capitol Hill facility.
The District's Department of Human Resources placed the hospital's emergency room on a form of probation for 45 days while conditions there were investigated. City inspectors then reported that the three deaths had been isolated incidents and were not part of a pattern of poor care.
Hospital officials, who said they recognized a need to revamp their emergency room, said they decided to contract with an outside group because the group could then handle the difficult job of recruiting and training the staff and setting up emergency room procedures.
"It's sheer music to talk to these guys," said Capitol Hill's medical director, Dr. Keith A. Manley, of the group that will run the emergency room. "They're tuned in to making an emergency department responsive to the public. They really know emergency department.
"I'm totally convinced this is going to be a classy operation," said Manley, who was openly critical of the way two of the three patients who died had been handled at Capitol Hill.
Professional Emergency Physicians, the group which will take over the operation of Capitol Hill's emergency room today, also operated emergency rooms in 31 hospitals in 10 states, Manley said.
The farming out of the Capitol Hill facility is part of a growing trend in which hospitals contract with groups of physicians to run their specialty services. Anesthesia, radiology and pathology are, along with emergency medicine, the services most commonly run by private groups on a contract basis.
Capitol Hill Hospital has also come under criticism for the high number of patients it transfers from its emergency $99 See HOSPITAL, B5 Col. 3 room to D.C. General Hospital, the city's only such public facility.
A study of D.C. General records reveals that 30 percent of all the patients transferred to the hospital in 1978 came from Capitol Hill, even though Capitol Hill is one of 12 private hospitals in the city that handles emergency cases.
Capitol Hill officials have defended their transfer policy on financial grounds, saying that the hospital lost $712,000 between July of last year and February of this year. Capitol Hill, the officials said, simply cannot afford to provide free care for an unlimited number of patients.
According to Manley, the new physician group will be responsible for the staffing of the emergency room, and will hire whatever additional physicians are needed.
When it was run directly by Capitol Hill, the emergency room was staffed primarily by foreign medical graduates, some of whom, said Manley, had some problems communicating with the emergency room's primarily black, inner city patients.
The new emergency room, he said, will be primarily staffed with American trained physicians. Any foreign medical graduates on the staff, he said, "will be very good. Their [the new group's] purpose is to have good doctors, and that automatically includes doctors who speak perfect English."
Shortly after the newspaper reports of patient deaths following emergency room discharges, Capitol Hill Hospital asked that a survey team from the College of Emergency physicians study the Capitol Hill emergency room and make recommendations.
That report has never been released, however, and hospital officials have said it will remain confidential because its release could effect a multi-million malpractice suit pending against the hospital.