D.C. officials, including two prominent members of the city council, are blasting Providence Hospital’s decision to close its acute care services by the end of the year.
Officials at the embattled 408-bed Northeast hospital said they’ve decided to concentrate on ambulatory and outpatient services in a health village model.
“While not entirely unexpected, I am deeply troubled to learn about the decision by Providence to further eliminate inpatient services,” said Ward 7 Councilman Vincent Gray. “Providence was a hospital of choice for many residents in Ward 7. 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.”
Gray said the decision by Providence to eliminate those services “exacerbates the maldistribution of beds and will further disadvantage people on the east end of the District.”
Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said the impending closure further underscores how important it is for District officials to understand and provide for the health needs of its residents.
“I am deeply alarmed by Providence Hospital’s recent announcement to cease all of its acute care services by the end of this year,” McDuffie said. “Many Ward 5 residents rely on Providence Hospital for medical services.”
The hospital received funding in the fiscal 2019 budget, which called for a study of OB/GYN services for residents in Wards 5, 7 and 8 and the greater portion of the District to help identify and analyze the racial and ethnic disparities that affect women’s obstetrics and gynecological outcomes.
“Access to quality health care is critical for the residents of Ward 5,” McDuffie said. “I will be requesting that the study of OBGYN services expand to include acute care services and working with the executive and my colleagues to ensure that all residents in the District have accessible, quality health care services.”
Officials at Providence did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said despite Providence’s announcement, Howard University Hospital remains committed to bridging any resulting services gap and providing care to serve the D.C. community.
“In 2017, when Providence Hospital closed its maternity ward, Howard University Hospital answered the call to lend support to displaced patients and entered a partnership with Unity Health Care to expand obstetrics access to underserved areas across the District,” Frederick said in a news release. “We are prepared to respond similarly to support underserved communities and patients who will now seek a different provider for acute care services. Following the ongoing revitalization of our health care enterprise, HUH continues to see steady improvements in our caregiving metrics.”
Howard University Hospital stepped up its role with women’s and psychiatric health and has witnessed quantifiable growth in patient base and emergency health, according to Frederick.
Notably, the hospital ended fiscal year 2018 with a bottom line of approximately $20.4 million, which marked the third consecutive year of positive results for Howard University Hospital.
“Howard University Hospital has been successful in widening its reach to care for some of the city’s most vulnerable patients in Wards 7 and 8,” Frederick said. “As a D.C. Level 1 Trauma Center, we look forward to expanding our relationship with D.C. residents to meet the needs of the region.”
Gray indicated he will schedule a Committee on Health performance oversight hearing of the Department of Health in the fall to examine the executive’s strategy for health systems planning to ensure health care services are adequate and conveniently available to residents in all wards of the city.
“This closure creates additional urgency for the executive to quickly select a permanent operator for the new hospital to be constructed on the St. Elizabeths campus,” Gray said. “I have said publicly on many occasions that we need to have the new hospital opened by no later than December 31, 2021, and perhaps that timeline should be further accelerated after Providence’s announcement.”