For the last 16 years, Hamilton Walker has opened the front door of Doctors Hospital for visitors. Yesterday, he was at his post again, dressed in a three-piece black suit, white shirt and black hat.
"It's a sad day," said the 74-year-old Walker, who was one of 500 employes surprised by the news that the hospital will be closing in two to three weeks because it is bankrupt. "It's going to put a lot of people out of jobs. I don't know what I'm going to do. I might slow down and go South."
In papers filed in federal court Tuesday, the hospital listed about 2,700 creditors. The precise amount of its debt was not immediately available.
David Machanic, an attorney who has been appointed receiver for the hospital, said its debt is substantial.
Dr. Oscar B. Hunter Jr., a director of the hospital's parent company, Washington Medical Center Inc., said the hospital's closing is "a combination of things," primarily the five-year controversy over the hospital's plan to expand and move to another location.
The structure of 1815 I st. NW is scheduled to be demolished in June 1980 and officials had planned to renovate the Metropolitan Hotel at 1143 New Hampshire Ave. NW for its new building.
"The problem really is the government tends to choke things off," Hunter said of the battle with the city government. "The cost increases got out of hand."
"I feel so badly about the employes," said Hunter, whose father was one of the hospital's founders. "Some of them are weeping and sad. Some are raging mad."
At the hospital yesterday, nurses and doctors, elevator operators and clerks talked about the closing. "I have very mixed feelings," said Linda Hooks, a nurse at the hospital since 1971. "I'm very sad about it. I had hopes for us to be able to move."
Hooks said that because of the current nursing shortage in the Washington area, she thinks she will be able to land a job.
"I figure it's going to be kind of hard [to find another job]," said Conrad H. Cheek, Jr., the director of biomedical engineering who has been at the hospital only two months. Check said he had spent time yesterday calling area hospitals to see if they had any openings.
Jay Wolfgang, the hospital administrator, said officials at four hospitals -- Georgetown, George Washington, Capitol Hill and Washington Hospital Center -- plan to visit the hospital today to interview prospective employes. "We are going to do everything to find jobs for our employes," he said.
In the meantime, no new patients are being admitted, no new patients are being admitted, said Charles Ryder, the hospital's assistant administrator. Most patients will be discharged or transferred to other area hospitals by next week, he said.
The average patient's stay at the hosptial is 6.4 days and officials said they expect most patients will be discharged before the hospital closes.
The hospital's closing is of some concern to the Group Health Association, the area's largest prepaid health maintenance group, which sent about a third of its patients to the hospital this year.
Dr. Edward Hinman, director of the health group, said plans were being made to transfer patients covered by GHA to other area hospitals by tomorrow. The group, which has about 100,000 members, is working out arrangements with other hospitals for the future.
Hinman said GHA used Doctors Hospital because it was convenient and cheaper than university teaching hospitals, such as those at Georgetown and George Washington universities. A hospital official said its rooms were $75 a day cheaper than similar accommodations at the two university facilities.
Hospital employes voiced concern yesterday that the closing will cause them to lose sick pay and vacation pay. Machanic said those matters will be addressed in the bankruptcy proceeding.
When Doctors Hospital opened March 7, 1940, it was the place where the city's prominent doctors sent their patients. It was founded by several doctors, who invested money in the structure.
"It was run almost like a hotel," said Dr. Isadore Levin, who has worked at the hospital since it opened. There were bellboys in uniforms."
He said the hospital even had French chefs and a female assistant administrator who put up draperies in the rooms. "She saw to it that the rooms were made like home."
Rooms at that time cost $4 to $6 per day, he said.
"I'm going to miss it," said Levin. "It's been just like home." CAPTION:
Picture, Hamilton Walker has worked at Doctors Hospital for 16 years. Its closing, he said, is "a sad day. It's going to put a lot of people out of jobs.", By Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Dr. Isadore Levin has worked at Doctors Hospital since it opened in 1940. By Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post