WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - During Tuesday’s budget hearing, D.C. Council voted to slash funding for United Medical Center and close the only hospital east of the Anacostia by 2022.
Employees were notified Monday that a “mass reduction-in-force” that could begin in 60 days.
A spokesman for United Medical Center says the cuts could impact hundreds of employees. He says the hospital currently employs over 800 people.
Ward 7 councilmember Vincent Gray is behind the proposal to cut city funding to the hospital from $40 million to $15 million, a move that would reduce services at the hospital to just emergency and psychiatric care.
Gray says patients at the long-troubled hospital are declining while costs are ballooning and the city’s money should be spent elsewhere. He believes a new community hospital with 200 beds could open by the end of 2021 on old the St. Elizabeths’s campus, although the deputy mayor of health and human services said he believed opening a new hospital in that time frame is unlikely.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Ward 8 councilmember Trayon White spoke about constituents calling him with concerns and said the council shouldn’t “pull the plug” on United Medical Center when there’s no other hospital east of the river.
“Some of the elders in the community from AARP have been calling my office since last night concerned about where they are going to get their services from their doctor,” said White. “And so we are making a rash decision to defund the hospital that’s still in existence right now.”
While the council still must make a final vote on the budget, a nurse’s union representative tells FOX 5 she doesn’t think it’s likely money will be restored.
“It’s going to have a great impact on the quality of services of the hospital and even the services provided,” said Wala Blegay, with the District of Columbia Nurses Association.