DC Council moves to close United Medical Center

The D.C. Council voted to start defunding Washington’s only hospital east of the Anacostia River — a hospital the city owns and pumps millions of dollars in subsidies into annually.

The effort to close United Medical Center is being led by Ward 7’s Vince Gray, who said closing the hospital will save the city substantial amounts of money as well as help pave the way “toward creating a new health care system and building a new hospital on the grounds of St. Elizabeths.”

Tuesday’s vote on the city’s next fiscal year budget was the first of two needed to pass the budget at the end of the month. Final approval is slated to come May 28.

But plans for George Washington University to build a new hospital on the campus of St. Elizabeths grew far less certain back in December when some members of the council tried to get Howard University Hospital in the mix. As Gray noted in Tuesday’s hearing, “we can’t force one private entity to accept another,” adding it’s “adamantly been rejected” by the president at George Washington.

And that uncertainly led to an impassioned plea from Ward 8 councilman Trayon White not to pull the plug on United Medical Center yet.

“We are making a rash decision to defund the hospital that’s still in existence right now,” White said. “We should not pull the plug because people are still living there.”

White, who was born at United Medical Center, argued: “We know at some point there will be a new hospital but that day is not today. And every day, from now until the end, there will be people who are suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and trauma of all kinds who have to go to this hospital.”

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