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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 20, 2001
10:36 AM
CONTACT:  DC Statehood Green Party
Scott McLarty, DCSGP Spokesperson, (202) 518-5624
Obfuscation and Bad Faith: Mayor Williams and the Dismantling of DC General Hospital
 
WASHINGTON - March 20 - While D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams proceeds with the privatization of D.C. General Hospital and dismantling of its services, the D.C. Statehood Green Party continues to demand, along with the Health Care Now Coalition, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and numerous other local organizations, coalitions, unions, third parties, and churches that D.C. General be maintained as a full service public hospital.

Members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party have attended and testified at public hearings, neighborhood meetings, and protests and will continue until the Mayor and the Financial Control Board scrap the scheme to hand D.C. General over to Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation (DCHC). Statehood Greens, including Arturo Griffiths, 2000 candidate for City Council At-Large, have participated in Health Care Now since its founding, and the party continues to support this coalition.

On Tuesday, March 20, Statehood Greens will participate in a protest rally in front of the Brookings Institution, where Financial Control Board Chair Alice Rivlin holds her day job. The rally, sponsored by Health Care Now, begins at 5:30 p.m.; the location is 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. (Contact for this event: Vanessa Dixon, 202-483-3141.)

The D.C. Statehood Green Party insists that the funding to maintain full services at D.C. General is well within reach. "The District can provide adequate revenues to restore and expand our gutted safety net especially the preservation and improvement of the services of DC General Hospital and simultaneously allow tax relief for low income and working class families by restructuring our local tax structure to make it fair and progressive.... The District does have a tax base to fund essential needs!" (Testimony in support of raising the D.C. EITC to 25% of the federal credit, David Schwartzman, D.C. Statehood Green Party Finance and Revenue Committee, February 8, 2001, posted at <http://www.dcstatehoodgreen.org/>)

The "Fair Taxes for D.C." plan, to which Mr. Schwartzman referred in his testimony, has been endorsed by the Center for Community Change, Fair Budget Coalition, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington, and Stand for Our Neighbors, as well as the DC Statehood Green Party.

Furious D.C. residents

Along with thousands of other D.C. residents, Statehood Greens have grown impatient and angry at Mayor Anthony Williams' duplicity and obfuscation in pushing the privatization plan, which was ordered by the DC Financial Control Board, an unelected body imposed by Congress and the White House. Many D.C. residents are especially angry at the Mayor's vague, evasive, and dismissive responses to their concerns.

Privatization will end inpatient care at D.C. General, and farm the hospital's clientele -- mostly poor and low-income working people, for whom the emergency room serves as a doctor's office -- out to clinics and private hospitals throughout D.C., many of which are ill-prepared to receive them. Neither the Mayor nor D.C. Health Department Director Dr. Ivan Walks has offered a specific plan to ensure that primary care services will be in place.

1,250 jobs will be lost because of privatization. On Tuesday, March 6, D.C. City Council members voted 13-0 against it, but Council has no power to block the deal.

Another land grab

The Washington Post, which generally supports the privatization plan, has begun to question the Mayor and the specifics of his plan ("Before D.C. General Is Closed" [editorial], March 17, 2001), even suspecting a "prime real estate" land grab as motivation for the closure.

D.C. Statehood Greens have long recognized that major policies of the D.C.'s ruling Democrats have been based on the demands of powerful real estate interests: the new convention center and incipient displacement of the surrounding neighborhood, closure of public school buildings, the Mayor's attempt to move the University of the District of Columbia, construction of a Massachusetts Avenue ballpark, and the impending D.C.-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Olympics and conseqent plans for sports facilities built on taxpayers' money.

Mayoral obfuscation, bad faith, and intimidation: Revelations and responses

*** "Few details have been made available [by the Mayor] about the bids that were submitted earlier this month in response to the control board's request for proposals to replace the financially troubled Public Benefit Corp.’s operation of D.C. General Hospital, its network of six community health clinics and the school nurse program." -- "The PBC fight: City council takes on the control board", by Kathryn Sinzinger, The Common Denominator, February 26, 2001 http://www.thecommondenominator.com/022601_news4.html

*** The DCHC proposal, which Mayor Williams has refused to make public, contains only vague promises of how DC residents, especially the neediest who have depended on DC General, will be served. http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/pbc010130.htm (an excerpt)

*** DC Council Member David Catania has compiled documentation proving (1) DCHC, a for-profit company, is deeply in debt and unprofitable; and (2) DCHC has a reputation for inability to complete deals and for 11th hour demands in negotiations. Furthermore, it's illegal for the DC to do business with a corporation that owes back taxes to the city; DCHC has owed the city back taxes since it bought Greater Southwest Community Hospital. http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/pbc010220.htm

*** Mayor Williams never released the December 2000 report from the Health Care System Development Commission, which the Mayor chaired last year. The Mayor claims the report recommended eliminating DC General and the Public Benefits Corporation, which administers DC General. DC Watch's Gary Imhoff says, "Mayor Williams, to put it kindly, must have been misinformed. The report doesn't (that's 'does not') recommend closing DC General, and it calls for strengthening the PBC, not abolishing it." http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/pbc0012.htm

*** "D.C. General Hospital officials, several D.C. council members and health care advocates are accusing the mayor’s administration and the financial control board of misleading the public in order to drive their agenda for dismantling the Public Benefit Corp. (PBC).... [T]hey point to the above-average 94 percent score that D.C. General just received from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations – the accrediting agency for U.S. hospitals – as proof that recent horror stories about questionable care being the norm at the facility are untrue." -- "D.C. General crisis called ‘misleading’: Hospital gets high accreditation score; officials allege financials are skewed", by Kathryn Sinzinger, The Common Denominator, December 4, 2000 http://www.thecommondenominator.com/120400_news1.html

*** Contrary to the Mayor's claims, "D.C. hospitals do not have a 75 percent occupancy rate.... [F]rom October to March each year, the occupancy rate of available general medical-surgical beds is 100 percent on many days of the week. The same is true for intensive care unit beds in many of our hospitals.... Greater Southeast Hospital cannot possibly develop, staff and become an accredited trauma center in three months. The accreditation process will take at least a year.... In the meantime, where will major trauma cases go? Howard, Providence, Washington Hospital Center, George Washington and Greater Southeast will be swamped with absorbing the 13,000 ambulance transports that went to D.C. General last year. This is in addition to the thousands of patients who will walk into the already crowded emergency departments." -- Margaret Barron, Director of the Providence Hospital Emergency Department, in a letter to The Washington Post, March 15, 2001

*** Although the Mayor's office complained that the Mayor was 'ambushed' by Rev. Willie Wilson's criticism of the Mayor's plans at a public meeting at Union Temple on March 1, the Mayor's Chief of Staff Abdusalam Omer was told in advance that Rev. Wilson opposed closing D.C. General and he would speak against it in the meeting at his church (reported in DC Watch’s "themail" bulletin board). In a meeting shortly between the Mayor and local ministers shortly after the Union Temple event, " the ministers said the mayor had insulted them by having uniformed officers remain until the pastors insisted they leave. 'To have to be surrounded by armed policemen -- it shows the insensitivity,' said the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, of Union Temple Baptist Church. 'It was despicable.'" -- "Pastors Appeal to Mayor for D.C. General," March 7, 2001, The Washington Post

*** Ron Linton, former chair of the Public Benefits Corporation: "Yes, the hospital has run a deficit. Yes, it could have been managed better. It should have been replaced years ago with a modern facility. But that has little to do with the current situation. DC General receives from the city about $40 million a year. It needs $75 to meet its budget. But instead of giving DC General $35 million more, the city apparently at the Control Board's direction, will give Southeast (a profit making institution) $85 million to do less than what is done now at DC General." -- Quoted in The Progressive Review, March 9, 2001 http://prorev.com/freedc.htm

*** "[T]he people and a majority of their elected D.C. City Council have been trying to tell the mayor's representatives at meeting after meeting across this city that they want their tax dollars spent to maintain D.C. General Hospital and its network of health-care services as public entities.... Municipal governments are not supposed to turn a profit. A government that profits off the backs of taxpayers, while telling the taxpayers that the government cannot afford to provide the services that the public wants, is not doing its job. Providing government services is supposed to cost money. That's why taxes exist." -- "Officials are out of touch" (editorial), The Common Denominator, February 26, 2001 http://www.thecommondenominator.com/022601_edit.html

*** "If things go according to plan, Washington DC will gain a $50 million mayoral mansion and lose its public hospital at about the same time.... First as the city's financial officer after the federal takeover of DC in the mid-90s, and then as mayor, Williams has also overseen the deterioration of other public health and social services, the public schools and the public university. He has concentrated instead on improvements that appeal to the approximately 20% of residents who earn over $100,000 and pay about 50% of the city's income taxes." -- "Singapore on the Potomac", February 27, 2001, The Progressive Review http://prorev.com/freedc.htm

*** "There are 80,000 uninsured citizens in the District, and we need a hospital owned by the District as a safety net. They are absolutely turning their backs on the poor." -- Henry Nicholas, AFSCME

*** "[Privatization of D.C. General] makes about as much sense as letting the marketplace decide whether there we have a fire or police department." -- "High Officials Implicated in Death," The Progressive Review, November 22, 2000 http://prorev.com/freedc.htm

MORE INFORMATION:

The D.C. Statehood Green Party http://www.dcstatehoodgreen.org

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