Three years after losing its accreditation, D.C. General Hospital has been reaccredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals, the national body that provides the most widely recognized seal of approval for public and private hospitals.
Hospital officials are expected to announce today that the commission granted the city's only public acute care hospital a one-year public acute care hospital a one-year accreditation, rather than the usual two-year approval.
"They warned us of that ahead of time," said Gilbert Hahn, chairman of the hospital's governing board. "They told us there was nothing invidious, but they were doing it because of our capital improvement program," which is not yet completed.
Hahn said the hospital has been told it can apply again in eight months for a full two-year accreditation.
The Joint Commission's Accreditation Manual for Hospitals states that a hospital "found to be in substantial compliance with the standards, although manifesting certain shortcomings, shall be granted a one-year accreditation."
Hahn, who said he has not seen the letter granting accreditation, said that when the survey team was at D.C. General a few months ago, the "only things they commented on were things I would consider really minimal.
"The largest deficiencies were in areas in the life safety code," which covers the state of the physical plant. The hospital has a $12 million capital improvement budget for 1978 that includes the construction of a new maternity and gynecology unit.
Following earlier surveys, the commission members had been sharply critical of the hospital's nursing services, record keeping and general administration.
This time, said Hahn, "they thought that what was terribly improved was the way that we practice medicine. They said that nursing had improved spectacularly."
In October of last year, control of the hospital, which serves the poorest of the city's poor, passed from the city's Department of Human Resources to the independent D.C. General Hospital Commission, headed by Hahn.
"They were particulaly pleased with the working of the (D.C. Hospital commission," he said.
In keeping with the politics of the season, City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, a candidate for the Democratic mayoral nomination in September's primary, said the re-accreditation was brought about by the establishment of the commission, which he said he staunchly supported. He noted that to establish the commission, the council had to override Mayor Walter Washington's veto of the commission bill.
City Council member Polly Shackleton, chairman of the committee which oversees the operation of the hospital and another long-time supporter of independence for the massive institution, said yesterday, "No longer can it be said that the DIstrict's public hospital gives less than first class quality medical care to the residents of our city.
"I think it's absolutely great . . . It needed the independence of its own commission and the leadership Bob (Robert) Johnson was able to give," she said.
Johnson was appointed executive director of the trouble-plagued hospital in late 1975, shortly after the institution lost its accreditation. Under Johnson's leadership the hospital has worked to fill vacancies on the staff, particularly in nursing, where more than 30 persons were added, and to correct the administrative shortcomings he inherited.
Under DHR and prior to the hiring of Johnson, said Shackleton, "there were just too many bureaucratic layers and (the administration) couldn't fill jobs and get their maintenance done. There were so many things that were important that couldn't get done. I'm delighted that at long last we don't have to hang our heads in shame."
Matthew McNultey Jr., chancellor of the Georgetown University Medical Center, which has residency programs at D.C. General, called the regaining of accreditation "magnificent. I think it demonstrates the result of the excellent partnership among the hsopital, Howard Univeristy, [which also has medical education programs at D.C. General] and Georgetown University . . .
"It'll take time to deal with a number of difficulties that have arisen over the years, but there's now a team to do it and a governance structure which allows for it," said McNultey.
The hospital's run-down physical appearance has received a great deal of attention lately because of First Lday Rosalyn Carter's work on behalf of beautifying the institution, including putting in time painting hallways there last week.
Despite receiving reaccreditation, the hospital reportedly still has some problems in its record-keeping department, has an emergency room where patients wait up to five hours for treatment and is literally years behind in its billing and bill collecting.