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Stuart F. Seides, President of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, Testimony at
“National Public Hospital Safety-Net in Crisis: D.C. General Hospital in Focus,”
A Congressional Hearing Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers
March 22, 2001




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Telephone: 202.466.1800
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For Immediate Release

CONTACT: David Love, phone 202-466-1800, ext. 114, e-mail love@msdc.org

Washington, DC, March 22, 2001 - At a Congressional briefing today on the National Public Hospital Crisis, Stuart F. Seides, MD, president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, issued the following statement regarding DC General Hospital:

"Additional concerns and supporting data have come to the surface that solidify the Medical Society's serious concerns regarding the viability of the Control Board's plan to dismantle inpatient services at DC General Hospital.

"The negative impact of the Control Board's plan will be far-reaching. Many of the 52,000 emergency department visits and many of the 15.000 ambulance arrivals that currently go to DC General will simply be shifted to the already overcrowded but closer emergency rooms of the Washington Hospital Center, Providence Hospital, George Washington University Hospital and Howard University Hospital. We question the choice of supporting a system that depends upon a hospital that is far removed from the traditional catchment area of DC: General, with the clear potential to shill. substantial costs to the other already financially fragile community hospitals.

"The emergency departments of the hospitals closest to DC General -- emergency rooms that are already bottlenecked -- will see the overall number of ambulance visits increase. In fact, for reasons yet to be understood, the number or emergency room visits in the city increased by nearly 17 percent in January 2001 as compared to the previous year.

"In addition, no hospital can possibly develop, staff, and become an accredited trauma center in three months. The accreditation process itself takes at least a year. We are concerned that there is no interim solution to the trauma center issue, What plan is in place to serve the residents of Wards 6, 7, and 8 while - more a trauma center is being established to replace the one at DC General?

"For centuries, physicians have adhered to the oath "primum non nocere" -- first, do no harm. It is against this standard that we must measure the Control Board's transformation plan for DC General Hospital.

"We have the solemn responsibility to treat illness and save lives. We have yet to sec a workable transition plan that would adequately do either. After months of study and dozens of meetings, it is clear to MSDC that the plan to eliminate the acute care beds and/or substantially reduce hospital services at DC General will, in fact, cause harm to patients-harm to the patients of Wards 6, 7, and 8 as well as to the broader population of patients that are currently treated at neighboring DC hospitals.

"We add our voices to those urging the Mayor and the Control Board to suspend the current deadline of April 2 and to establish a realistic timeframe for a careful re-examination of the alternatives for providing the desperately needed health care services that DC General now provides.

"The Medical Society will continue to join others in calling for a transition plan that guarantees an increase, not a decrease, in health care services available to patients who have historically relied on DC General Hospital. No one in this city should sit idly by while health care services are likely denied to some of the City's most vulnerable populations. We will continue to advocate for our patients. We can do nothing less."

The Medical Society of the District of Columbia is dedicated to the well being of physicians and their patients in metropolitan Washington. We advocate on behalf of our member physicians of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds; we promote high standards of character and professionalism; and we ensure that physicians are -- and are recognized as -- the primary professionals who define and guarantee high-quality, appropriate, and cost-effective medical care. Above all, we aggressively defend the highest principle of all -- the integrity of the physician-patient relationship.

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