The District's beleaguered public hospital has announced plans for a doctors group associated with George Washington University to take over its emergency room, officials said Sunday.
In a news release circulated by the administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), hospital managers said they have selected GW Medical Faculty Associates for a contract to oversee emergency medical services at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. The selection came after an "extensive" search for a new contractor to run the emergency room, hospital officials said.
Bowser said in a statement that she was "encouraged that GW Medical Associates will improve quality of care at the existing hospital." David Boucree, UMC's interim chief executive, said the group's presence would "help ensure that residents of wards 7 and 8 have access to the same high-quality standards in (emergency) treatment as provided in other regions of the city."
Hospital managers and officials in the mayor's office were unable to provide many details of the new contact — such as its duration, its scope of work or the amount that would be paid — and said the terms must still be "finalized" and approved by the UMC board.
GW Medical Faculty Associates is the largest independent physicians group in the Washington region, according to its website, with dozens of locations in the District, Maryland and Virginia. The group incorporated as a nonprofit separate from the university 17 years ago but still maintains "a close alliance" with the university and George Washington University Hospital, the website says.
The news was announced on the eve of a D.C. Council health committee hearing Monday at which hospital managers are expected to face tough questions about their stewardship.
Since last year, UMC has been run by a politically connected consulting firm, Veritas of Washington, that is collecting $300,000 a month in fees. Yet despite those payments, Veritas has failed to deliver the millions in extra revenue it promised to generate and has overseen a string of scandals involving patient care, including the closure of the hospital's obstetrics ward in August because of what regulators said were unsafe conditions for pregnant women and newborns.
D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), chairman of the health committee, has said he has doubts about whether the Veritas contract should be renewed.
Earlier this month, as Veritas came under increasing pressure, it announced it would replace one of its three full-time employees at UMC, chief executive Luis Hernandez. Boucree, another Veritas employee and a cousin of the consulting firm's owner, was then appointed interim chief.
UMC has long struggled to find an economically viable formula for providing care to its largely Medicaid-reliant patients from Southeast Washington and Prince George's County, Md. During fiscal 2015 and 2016, taxpayers subsidized the hospital — which is supposed to be financially independent — with roughly $17 million over the two years.
At a September hospital board meeting, UMC's chief financial officer said the facility would end fiscal 2017 narrowly in the black but would face a declining number of patients in the coming months, which could worsen financial conditions in 2018.