Greater Southeast Community Hospital's governing board voted Tuesday night to cut off funds for three physicians' centers that are the primary source of health care for about 4,000 people in Suitland, Clinton and Southeast Washington.
Board president Barry Passett said yesterday, however, that the hospital is seeking alternative ways to provide medical services in the three communities and to retain the doctors who have staffed the offices, the majority of whose patients are poor.
Passett said the 24-member governing board of the hospital's parent foundation decided to discontinue funds for the centers--the Professional Health Services centers in Suitland and Washington and the Clinton Medical Group--because the centers have not acquired enough full-paying patients to become self-sufficient.
"We are just not in a position to put a lot more money into it," said Passett. He said the foundation provided Professional Health Services, the nonprofit corporation that runs the centers, with a $150,000 grant for the fiscal year ending next June 30, and has been asked to give more.
"The organization is losing a significant amount of money per month. The $150,000 is practically all gone. The question is, what do they do come July 1?" Passet said.
Passet listed numerous reasons for the continuing financial difficulties at the centers, including a general decline in the economy and federal and state budget cuts.
One of four doctors who work at the centers, who asked not to be identified, said he felt the hospital was abandoning the commitment it made to the impoverished communities served by the centers.
He said about 60 percent of the patients served receive Medicaid or other medical assistance and nearly 70 percent of those treated at the centers are children.
Moreover, a majority of the private doctors in the areas served by the centers have been reluctant to take patients on medical assistance, he said. Before the centers opened, many patients sought nonemergency care in the hospital's emergency room.