Credit: NCinDC/Flickr

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Two “poison pill” amendments to the deal to build a new hospital in Ward 8 have forced Councilmember Vince Gray to propose more changes that give greater consideration to Howard University’s medical school.

During a community forum at the Union Temple Baptist Church on Sunday evening, D.C. Health Committee director Eric Goulet announced the new proposal that Gray intends to introduce on Tuesday during the Council’s final legislative meeting of 2018. 

The amendment, Goulet says, will remove the “problematic elements” of two amendments that Councilmembers Trayon White and Elissa Silverman successfully passed during the previous legislative meeting, on Dec. 4.

“If we don’t work it out, this hospital on the East End … will not move forward,” Goulet told the crowd of about 200 at Union Temple. “If we don’t solve the issue of Howard’s affiliation, there will be no hospital, and we’ll put it on the shelf for a while.”

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Gray’s newest proposal would bring city leaders together with George Washington University, GW Hospital, and Howard University for the purpose of finding a hospital that will partner with Howard’s medical school. Those partners could theoretically include any hospital throughout the District, and the proposal contains no requirement that GW Hospital be one of them.

Howard University officials have repeatedly claimed that the District’s exclusive deal with GW Hospital to build a new facility in Ward 8 would jeopardize Howard University Hospital and its medical school. Howard University medical school is a leader in training African-American physicians.

Gray’s new amendment contains a “trigger,” that kills the deal for the new Ward 8 hospital if the group of city, university, and hospital officials cannot find a hospital to partner with Howard University.

Some of the loudest applause of the evening at Union Temple Baptist Church came in support of preserving Howard’s medical school.

Dr. Hugh Mighty, the dean of Howard University College of Medicine, could not definitively say whether he supports Gray’s newest proposal because it has not been finalized. But, Mighty tells City Paper, he is concerned that Gray’s proposal will not be strong enough to give Howard’s med students access to the new Ward 8 hospital.

“I’m going to put it bluntly to you standing out here,” Mighty said on the steps of Union Temple Baptist Church. “This is the neighborhood. It’s one thing to say you’ll find Howard affiliation agreements elsewhere, but the practicality of that in this District where you have three other medical schools is unlikely in existing hospitals.”

White’s Dec. 4 amendment, which Gray’s new proposal would replace, would specifically require GW Hospital to partner with Howard University and allow its medical students to train at the new hospital.

Silverman’s Dec. 4 amendment, which would also be nixed if Gray’s new proposal passes, requires GW Hospital to adopt the union contracts of current employees at United Medical Center, which the new hospital would replace.

Gray’s amendment would create a tiered hiring process that gives preference to employees at UMC and Howard University Hospital and then to District residents, Goulet says.

“It’s the farthest we can possibly go to support unions, short of a full successorship agreement, and keep George Washington University Hospital working on this project,” he says.

Neither White nor Silverman have seen Gray’s new proposal and could not say whether they supported it.

If Gray’s proposal passes, Goulet says, officials will have until March to fulfill the affiliation requirement for Howard University.

“If we don’t solve the affiliation deal, we don’t move forward with a new hospital,” he says. 

 Photo by NCinDC on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons BY-ND 2.0 license.