By: Sara Gilgore | May 28, 2019, 2:49pm
The D.C. Council is giving United Medical Center about $22 million as part of the new District budget, up from the $15 million subsidy cap that was passed at a first budget reading two weeks ago.
At Tuesday’s legislative meeting, the council voted 10-2 in support of an amendment to its 2020 District budget, introduced by Councilman Trayon White, D-Ward 8, to restore a portion of city funding for UMC because without it, he said, “it will not be able to function.”
It came after Councilman Vincent Gray, D-Ward 7, successfully lobbied to put a $15 million ceiling on the subsidy in response to the $40 million UMC requested. A separate motion by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson between first and second reading increased the $15 million for the struggling hospital by $4 million. White’s amendment to add $3 million brings the total subsidy to $22 million.
Mendelson and Gray, the health committee’s chairman, were the only council members to vote against it.
“Frankly, it’s unclear to me what this amendment accomplishes,” Gray said, urging the council to oppose the increase because it requires cuts to other programs.
Supporters of giving more District dollars to UMC argue that the hospital won’t be able to run at the same capacity with less funding, and that services could be slashed, jobs could be cut and patients could be left in the lurch or driven to other already overcrowded hospitals.
“We are taking the only hospital that is east of the Anacostia River, that is east of North Capitol Street now that we no longer have Providence hospital, and we are cutting it off at its knees,” said Councilwoman Elissa Silverman, I-At large, at the meeting.
The overarching bill states that a five-member control board would be created to operate UMC if the hospital could not establish a revised spending plan by the end of July in adherence with the subsidy amount. As it’s outlined, UMC would stop admitting new patients by Dec. 31, 2022, and would cease operations by Jan. 31, 2023. The intention is that a planned replacement hospital in Ward 8 opens before UMC shuts down, to ensure that there’s no gap in service on the city’s East End.
But the fate of a new East End hospital remains in limbo. The council voted Tuesday to approve the overarching budget, which moves the target completion date of a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus from 2023 to 2022. It also includes an amendment that reintroduces a controversial affiliation with Howard University Hospital, which Gray had said “means that there will be no hospital deal.”
These, and other provisions previously introduced — workforce protections at the new hospital for current UMC employees, a neutrality agreement that means the hospital operator couldn’t interfere with employees’ ability to unionize, and a Certificate of Need waiver for the new facility — now stand as part of the budget. Meanwhile, back-and-forth negotiations between D.C.’s executive branch and George Washington University Hospital to run the new facility continue.