ANTHONY A. WILLIAMS
March 28, 2001
Dear District Resident:
I am writing to you because there is a health crisis in our city and I'd like to share
with you my determination to address the challenge.
With the help of elected officials, health care experts and community representatives,
I'm building a better health care system that puts the health of you and your family at
the top of the city's agenda.
The nation's capital should be the healthiest city in America. Instead, the life
expectancy of its African American men is 10 years lower than the rest of America's, and
the city has the country's highest rates of infant mortality, diabetes and HIV infection.
Obviously, the District's health care system is failing and needs reform.
Rumors have left some residents fearful and angry about the future of medical care and
services in our city. Please allow me to set the record straight.
Of the 140,000 annual visits to D.C. General Hospital, only about 10,000 are inpatient
admissions. About 4,000 of the patients admitted are uninsured, and local taxpayer dollars
must pay for their care.
D.C. General will not be closing. Its emergency room will maintain 24-hour full-service
capability for most of the more than 50,000 annual visits, which include more than 12,000
ambulance runs. Two advanced cardiac-life-support ambulances will support this emergency
But the large number of people who visit D.C. General but do not require
hospitalization shows that many of the hospital's patients are using the emergency room as
their primary care provider, which is both an expensive and ineffective way to provide
health care. Emergency rooms don't provide the care people need to live healthier lives.
Therefore, the centerpiece of our health services reform plan is to change that
practice by providing a network of more than 100 primary care locations. These locations
will provide 30 percent more primary care, specialty and inpatient services than the
current system. For the first time, thousands of uninsured residents will have ready
access to regular health care. Meanwhile, inpatient and trauma care for the most seriously
injured will be maintained at D.C. General until Greater Southeast Community Hospital is
capable of delivering these services.
D.C. General staff, including trauma staff, will be offered hiring preference by
Greater Southeast. And let me be clear -- Greater Southeast will be held to its commitment
to provide the same level of trauma services now offered at D.C. General within three
months. Only then will trauma services move from D.C. General to Greater Southeast.
The media have reported that D.C. General's CEO backed a plan to build a new hospital
on the D.C. General site that would require no capital investment by the city. But no such
plan was submitted for evaluation by the city.
The plan that was supported by the Public Benefits Corp., which has been operating D.C.
General, was fully reviewed by evaluators appointed by the D.C. Council, my office and the
financial control board. The unanimous decision of these evaluators was to select the
Greater Southeast proposal, which included the commitment to build the network of
neighborhood-based primary care providers. The Greater Southeast proposal received more
than twice the points of the Public Benefits Corp. plan, which would have continued
inpatient operations at D.C. General.
Some believe that closing D.C. General is part of the National Capital Planning
Commission's 1997 redevelopment plan, but the land on which the hospital sits is federally
owned and designated for the provision of health care and human services. Further, I am
committed to maintaining the site as a health care campus.
Finally, our health initiative places the responsibility for the reform plan with the
District's department of health, not with any for-profit company. The health department
has proven expertise in the management and oversight of large health services contracts.
The management of Greater Southeast has been in place for more than a year and has
turned a failed institution into a safe and effective facility. However, the District will
have specific contractual power to conduct reviews of this contractor's ability to deliver
upon its commitments in order to protect the interests of patients and taxpayers.
I am confident that our community will come together to ensure that this reform leads
to a substantially improved health care system for the District's neediest citizens.
I look forward to your suggestions. If you need more information or would like to help
put into action our Health Care Services Reform Plan, please call the Department of Health
at 202-4429195 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You may also learn more about health reform
by visiting our website at www.washingtondc.gov.
Anthony A. Williams
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