Major cuts expected at United Medical Center in District's 2020 budget

Employees at D.C.'s only public hospital found out Monday their jobs are in jeopardy. The CEO of United Medical Center sent a letter to labor unions warning of a "mass reduction-in-force" that could begin in 60 days.

It comes a day before the D.C. Council votes on slashing the money the city gives the hospital. Instead of the $40 million subsidies in Mayor Muriel bower's budget, the city would give the hospital $15 million.

A proposal by Ward 7 councilmember Vincent Gray would reduce services at the hospital to just emergency and psychiatric care and close the doors by the beginning of 2022.

Gray says patients are declining while costs are ballooning and the city's money should be spent elsewhere.

United Medical Center, the only hospital east of the Anacostia, is already experiencing a budget shortfall of $15 million.

"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.

She says the union is calling nurses to make sure they are present for Tuesday's budget vote.

"When you cut from $40 million to $15 million, you're getting the bare minimum," said Blegay. "The east of the river residents deserve more than that. And for our nurses there, they're saying that, look, they're going to come tomorrow in big numbers to the budget hearing and make it clear that the residents need them."

Blegay asks why the city would choose to gut United Medical Center when there's no set plan for a new hospital east of the river.

In his proposal, Gray says he believes a new community hospital with 200 beds could open by the end of 2021 on old the St. Elizabeths's campus.

But D.C.'s deputy mayor of health and human services Wayne Turnage has his doubts.

"I think it would be difficult to open a new hospital by 2021," said Turnage.

A spokesperson for Gray said he was not available for an interview Monday.

Mayor Bowser's office did not provide comment.