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George Washington University wants a better deal with the majority-owner of its namesake hospital in Foggy Bottom.
Universal Health Services, Inc. has operated GW Hospital since 1997, when it bought an 80 percent stake, with the university owning the rest. The two entities have recently publicly clashed over UHS’ desire to expand the Foggy Bottom campus hospital, a move that neighborhood groups and ultimately the university itself opposed.
Now, GW University says it wants a “wholesale new agreement” with UHS.
“Despite our repeated attempts to make improvements, the arrangement with UHS no longer provides for the needs of the community, the local health system, students, or the medical staff,” GW University President Thomas LeBlanc wrote in an internal email to staff on Tuesday morning.
A university spokesperson says the initial agreement was struck to guarantee, among other things, “economic viability,” opportunities for research and teaching, and “strong clinical programs.”
“After many conversations over many years, these undertakings simply aren’t being upheld by UHS,” spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said in a statement.
UHS did not return requests for comment.
Based in Pennsylvania, UHS operates hundreds of medical facilities. In August 2018, UHS and Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that GW Hospital would manage a new hospital the city plans to build in Ward 8.
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But that deal has been on the ropes, with GW Hospital last December threatening to walk away from the deal after disagreements emerged between D.C. councilmembers, the various constituents they represent, hospitals, and organizations representing hospital workers. In particular, some councilmembers wanted Howard University Hospital to have a role in the new hospital.
In addition, GW Hospital last year wanted the approval for a new 270-bed tower in Foggy Bottom, tying the construction of that lucrative tower to its agreement for managing the new hospital in Southeast.
The Council last month repealed a bill that would have sidestepped the city’s mandatory “certificate of need” approval for the new tower in Foggy Bottom and the Southeast hospital. Councilmember Vince Graymoved to repeal the bill, which he authored, after GW University continued to oppose a new hospital tower in Foggy Bottom. At the time, Gray said GW Hospital and UHS were still on board to manage the new Southeast hospital, which aims to replace United Medical Center—the flagging, bare-bones hospital currently in Ward 8—by December 2022.
In the coming year, it’s unclear what exactly the university will look to gain in a new agreement with UHS over the management of GW Hospital. “We need a new agreement that is equitable, where our physicians are empowered to drive continuous improvement in quality of care in the hospital, and one that positions us for long-term success as a nationally recognized academic health system in clinical, research, and educational activities,” Nosal wrote in her statement.
LeBlanc, who took over as university president in 2017, has recently moved to take back more control over GW’s namesake medical institutions.
For example, LeBlanc announced last December that the university acquired more control of the independent GW Medical Faculty Associates, aiming to boost the nonprofit’s finances in exchange. Back in 2000, the university divested from the Medical Faculty Associates, which has 800 physicians in the D.C. region. With the new restructuring, the group remains separate but the university regains considerable oversight, including final say on the MFA’s annual budget, the power to appoint board members, and approval of its CEO.
“It is our intention to negotiate in good faith and it is our sincere hope that UHS will do the same to resolve our differences and create a new path forward to mutual success,” LeBlanc said in his email to university officials on Tuesday.