The consulting firm charged with turning around the troubled United Medical Center has told District officials it will replace the hospital's chief executive.
The move comes on the heels of six council members filing a resolution disapproving of the proposed $4.2 million contract for Veritas of Washington LLC to continue its hospital management next year.
In a letter sent to the city's Department of Health Care Finance this week, Veritas president, Chrystie Boucrée, said the company would launch a national search for a new CEO, "pending approval of the option year of the Veritas contract."
The removal of current CEO Luis Hernandez is effective immediately, she wrote, and she has asked the UMC Board to appoint David Boucrée, her cousin, as interim CEO.
The news was first reported by the Washington Business Journal.
Vincent Gray, the council's health committee chair, called the CEO dismissal "a Band-Aid approach."
"The systemic problems go beyond Veritas's operational capacity," he said in a statement.
Veritas, a company led by campaign donors to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), was brought on in April 2016 to stabilize the Southeast hospital. But despite already collecting millions from the city, it has failed to show measurable improvements.
Gray and other council members have grown increasingly critical of Veritas's handling of UMC, the District's only public hospital and the only full-service one east of the Anacostia River. The hospital has long been plagued with financial and quality issues. Hernandez's ouster will mean UMC will be searching for its fourth CEO in about two years.
Boucrée, the pending interim CEO, has described his professional background as being in information technology — including work with health insurance companies — and outsourcing.
Hernandez's contract expired on Sept. 30, 2017, but he will remain with the company "to oversee other areas of the Veritas portfolio," Chrystie Boucrée said in an emailed statement. Hernandez lives in Florida, but had been flying to the District for the CEO job and staying at an apartment in National Harbor with the city covering his travel and rent, expense reports showed. It's unclear whether his new role will continue that arrangement.
Under management by Veritas, the hospital has had a number of high-profile incidents.
District regulators closed the hospital's obstetrics wing in August, citing dangerous medical errors. Those included failures to take basic steps to prevent a newborn from contracting HIV and to properly treat a woman with potentially fatal blood-pressure problems.
In July, a 70-year-old patient died but his family wasn't notified for a week, and his family said hospital officials lost track of the body for several days.
A Washington Post review of public records in September found Veritas failed to meet several city standards for managing the hospital, including delivering only $1.07 million of the $9 million in extra revenue its executives promised to generate.
Gray's committee has scheduled a public roundtable session for Oct. 30 to hear from hospital and Veritas employees to determine whether to renew the contract.
"UMC looks forward to the upcoming Councilmember Gray hearing and the opportunity to share with the City Council the initiatives that Veritas has undertaken to improve patient quality and safety," Chrystie Boucrée said in her email.
In his statement, Gray said, "I have a singular goal with the operations of the UMC which is to preserve lives and improve patient safety. I filed a Disapproval Resolution on this Veritas contract because of their consistently poor performance. The removal of their CEO is only an attempt to retain their $4.2 million contract. I have yet to see a plan that sets forth a strategic direction on how Veritas will turnaround UMC operations."