The District government plans to close the D.C. Police and Fire Clinic on Oct. 1 as a cost-cutting measure, even though city officials are not sure the closing will save money.
By District law, the clinic, at D.C. Village in Southwest, provides free health care to more than 5,000 D.C. police officers and firefighters, U.S. Secret Service agents and U.S. Park Police.
For the last decade, city officials have targeted the clinic for money-saving efforts of various kinds, including proposals to transfer some or all of its functions to D.C. General Hospital. The police and firefighters unions have strongly opposed the proposed closing, saying the services the clinic provides are needed to care for the particular injuries and stress their members are exposed to.
The city's budget now assumes $1.375 million in net savings from the closure, proposed in Mayor Marion Barry's original budget submission.
A report by the D.C. police department's planning and development division last year recommended that the clinic be kept open, saying that a review of alternative methods of providing the health care "did not suggest that significant cost savings could be achieved by changing to another system."
It pointed to increased costs that D.C. General would incur in handling an additional 35,000 visits and examinations a year and a greater loss of worker-hours because of longer waiting times at the hospital. The report recommended instead various cost-containment measures, such as using D.C. General for laboratory work.
City officials disputed the police department report's conclusions on savings, but have not yet completed a separate cost analysis.
Shirley Wilson, director of the Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis, said her cost projections would be done by the end of next week and depend largely on what type of alternative service is proposed.
"There is no way to make a prediction on whether it will cost more or cost less," she said, but added that there is a widely held assumption that the services can be delivered more cheaply by alternative means. The plan still is to close the clinic at the beginning of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, she said.
Robert B. Johnson, D.C. General executive director, testified at congressional hearings on Thursday that the hospital plans to submit a proposal in a week or two for taking over the functions of the clinic, but he said he could not estimate the cost of the proposal. The city probably will pay the hospital at a flat contract rate based on the number of patients treated, he said.