United Medical Center newborn nursery services suspended for 90 days

D.C.'s Department of Health has suspended the license for obstetrics and newborn nursery services at United Medical Center.

For at least 90 days, the only hospital in the District on the east side of the Anacostia River will not be able to offer obstetric care to patients. However, all other emergencies are being accepted.

FOX 5 was tipped off to this development by a viewer who works in the hospital. Employees at the medical center were briefed on the 90-day suspension, but the cause not revealed to them.

"Every department gathered with their own departments and had a meeting about it and it was a big one in the auditorium," said a hospital employee.

A D.C. government source told FOX 5 that United Medical Center was warned by the Department of Health to improve patient care in obstetric unit. When it did not improve, the department took action on the hospital.

One employee also told FOX 5 they believe the suspension resulted in overall poor care being given and two specific incidents.

Health officials would not say why the suspension has been put into place and the health director has turned down our request to speak with her. The Department of Health would not comment on any additional details other than the following statement:

"The DC Department of Health has notified United Medical Center (UMC) that it has restricted its hospital license for obstetric and the accompanying newborn nursery services. This restriction applies solely to obstetric and nursery services and will remain in place for 90 days or until the hospital implements its plan for obstetrics and nursery services. All other medical services at the hospital remain open and accessible to the public in accordance with existing licenses from DOH."

The health department said it would work with the hospital to make sure its suspended license could be lifted in 90 days.

D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) expressed concern over the suspension saying in a news release:

"First and foremost, patient safety must come first. I cannot comment on the situation that led to the suspension of services or whether it was the correct decision, because communication by the Executive Branch has been unacceptably non-existent. I am incredibly concerned that residents on the East End of the District no longer have the option to have their babies delivered at an East End hospital. It is far past time to finally bring health equity to the East End of the City."

"The continued struggles of United Medical Center highlight the unacceptable chasm in health equity that is currently a way of life for residents on the East End of the District of Columbia. An over half-century old hospital simply cannot provide the quality and scope of health care services that residents enjoy in other areas of the city. UMC needs to be replaced with a new state-of-the-art community hospital as soon as possible."

"During my mayoral administration, I recognized the urgency of this situation in 2014 when I fully funded a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus. Under that plan, the District would have completed construction and opened the new East End Medical Center in 2019 until funds were cut by the Council. After two years with no urgency and no action on a new hospital from the city's leadership, I worked with my colleagues to dedicate $300 million for a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus in this past FY18 budget. However, a time horizon of 2023 is still too long for a new hospital to open, and it is imperative that we advance funds forward in the next budget cycle or through supplemental budgets. I hope that this unfortunate situation today finally shines the spotlight on the inadequacy of health care services for East End residents and brings a long overdue sense of urgency from the District's elected leaders on the issue of health equity."