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Panacea or Placebo?

At-Large Councilmember David Catania’s latest plan to transform D.C. General Hospital into a “Comprehensive Urban Healthcare Campus” features many innovative components. His Nov. 3 proposal includes a partnership between D.C. and the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health; integrated treatment facilities for mental health, HIV, and substance abuse patients; and bringing “professional private management” on board to make procurement, collections, and labor contracting that much more efficient. But wait just a minute:

Wasn’t the quasi-private D.C. Health and Hospital Public Benefit Corp. (PBC) created four years ago to do just that? Don’t even compare the two, says Catania. Private management under the Catania plan would be more of a free-market venture, with the possibility of leasing facilities to a private management company, creating a joint public-private management structure, or selling off some of the hospital’s facilities. “Not to criticize, but the PBC never got the untethered control it was supposed to get,” remarks Catania. “It got the benefits of the private aspects but a continuation of the public problems.” —Jonetta Rose Barras