Children's Hospital officials and community groups, surprised and angered by the city's plans to stop funding two free children's clinics in Adams-Morgan and Shaw, are organizing lobbying and grass-roots campaigns to reverse the decision.
Officials at Children's Hospital, which runs the clinics, plan to meet with City Council members next week and hope to have board members with close ties to Mayor Marion Barry talk to him about the issue.
The mayor's Commission on Latino Community Development and Washington Innercity Self Help (WISH), meanwhile, are starting a petition drive in the two communities today.
"All hell has broken loose," said Dr. Frederick Green, chairman of ambulatory services at Children's Hospital. "There has been an outpouring of support from the community."
D.C. Department of Human Services officials said last week that they planned to eliminate $648,000 in contracts with Children's for the clinics, the sole source of funding for the latter, as part of an effort to consolidate the city's health facilities.
DHS Director James A. Buford said the services of the Children's clinics would be picked up by the 15 city-operated clinics.
Some city clinics would have to add maternal and child-care services to do this, but all children would continue to be served, he said.
Green said the two Children's clinics handle about 24,000 medical visits a year and are the third and fourth busiest in the city. Children's officials said the city clinics are not close enough to the same communities and are not equipped to pick up all the children whom the hospital's facilities now serve.
About 85 percent of the patients of the Adams-Morgan clinic are Hispanic, and the Latino community is concerned that city clinics will not have the necessary bilingual staff to deal with families in the area.
"Practically speaking, I think we are going to find these kids on the doorstep of Children's Hospital," said Raymond Brophy, chairman of the board of the hospital.
City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) said she will meet next week with DHS officials to discuss plans for the clinics.
Kathryn Lewis of WISH said her group will ask about 30 other community organizations to get involved in the effort to keep the clinics.
WISH members will carry petitions to homes today and will go to bus stops and grocery stores next week to try to rouse community support.