A city government advisory council on health care voted last night to kill a proposal to buid a $47 million, 320-bed rehabilitation hospital on the site of the old Children's Hospital after some members expressed concern that the project would be unnecesarily large and expensive in terms of Washington's health needs.
Rejection of the proposal by the D.C. Statewide Health Coordinating Council -- a group of consumers and some health care professionals that oversees the construction of all health-related facilities here -- was unusual and somewhat unexpected. The project had the approval of Major Marion Barry and the D.C. City Council, which had already approved an application for $8 million in federal funding for the facility.
The council's vote last night was the advisory opinion of the panel's executive council, which acts for the full council during the summer. But the vote does not necessarily mean the end of the project, called the National Rehabilitation Hospital. The director of the D.C. State Health Planning and Development Agency technically has the final say over all health-related projects.
But some persons familiar with the system of approving such project requests said that the director was unlikely to reverse the recommendation of the advisory council, especially since the facility was also opposed by the agency's professional staff.
The project's three coowiners -- developer Jeffrey N. Cohen, architect Theodore Mariani and attorney Samuel C. Jackson -- had proposed the facility as part of a general plan to revitalize the Shaw neighborhood in Northwest Washington, left blighted and drug-ridden since Children's Hospital, formerly located at 13th and V streets NW, left the neighborhood in 1977.
The project was estimated to offer 1,200 jobs, many to the unskilled residents of the Shaw area, and about $1.25 million in tax revenues to the city after the facility began operating in 1985. Besides the mayor and the council, the project was backed by the Shaw Project Area Committee, a community group; the D.C. Physical Therapy Society and St. Paul and Augustine Church.
But it was with health care professionals that the project ran into difficulty. Some area hospitals, while not openly opposed to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, feared that the new facility would be too large, that it would add a further drain on badly needed medical personnel here and that there had been no comprehensive negotiations with other hospitals before the project was presented to city officials.
Those concerns were echoed by the panel members who voted last night. After rejecting the proposal on a 5-to-1 vote, the group passed another motion asking the developers to come back later with a revised, scaled-down plan.
Cohen said later that he would "absolutely not" consider a smaller facility of, for example, 160 beds, as one panel member suggested. Cohen said that anything smaller than the proposed facility could not be adequately financed in today's markets. CAPTION: Picture, Old Children's Hospital complex is the site of a proposed $47 million National Rehabilitation Hospital, backed by city officials. By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post