A hospital in Northeast Washington that serves many low-income residents announced Wednesday it will end acute-care services by the end of the year.
Providence Hospital, a 283-bed facility in Ward 5’s Michigan Park neighborhood, said it will shift its focus to other services, including primary and urgent care, home care, community-based behavioral health care and senior care. Hospital officials issued a statement about the changes but declined to comment further Thursday.
Keith Vander Kolk, president of Providence Health Systems, a subsidiary of the Catholic health organization Ascension, which owns the hospital, said the change will better position Providence Hospital for the future.
“We must put our focus and energy on advancing a model of transformation that will serve the District in new and lasting ways,” he said in a statement.
Founded in 1861, Providence serves some of the District’s most vulnerable patients. About half of its patients are on Medicaid, according to the D.C. Department of Health, and 75 percent live in the District.
The hospital recorded $23 million operating losses in 2016 and 2017, according to Washington Business Journal.
Last year, citing “economic pressures,” the facility announced a plan to open a “health village” to expand beyond traditional health care, then closed its maternity ward in October, leading some advocates to accuse the hospital of not looking out for the poor.
Changes at Providence come as the city considers plans to replace Southeast’s troubled United Medical Center, which has required millions in taxpayer subsidies. The D.C. Council brought in a new operator this year after health regulators found a series of medical errors.
In a statement Thursday, D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) said he was “deeply troubled” by Providence’s shift in services.
“The closure puts further strain on Washington Hospital Center’s emergency room services and continues a disturbing trend over the last year, in which hospital services in the eastern quadrants of the District have continued to be scaled back,” he said.
Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, who oversees Howard University Hospital, which also serves a population of lower-income residents, said low reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare make it hard for hospitals to serve poorer patients.
“Given the market forces, I can understand the difficulty of it,” he said of Providence’s decision. “I would say the most vulnerable populations are left in the lurch.”
Leah Garrett, vice president of Community of Hope, a nonprofit organization that works with low-income families in the District, said she was “saddened” by the announcement.
“This decision will contribute to an even greater scarcity of hospital resources closer to home for residents of the eastern half of the city,” she wrote in an email. “For many years, Providence provided acute care services for many of our Medicaid and uninsured patients and we hope that the other hospital systems will be committed to serving these residents.”