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PBC board: Cut services to save D.C. General

(Published July 31, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

D.C. General Hospital will reduce emergency room, dental, anesthesia and radiation therapy services as well as furlough some staff members, fire 10 doctors and close two clinics in an effort to reduce costs.

The board of directors of the Public Benefit Corp. — which oversees D.C. General, the city’s public health clinics and the school nurses program — voted July 28 to institute the major changes in order to save an estimated $39 million a year.

The board also served notice to former CEO John A. Fairman that his contract will be terminated Oct. 26. Fariman was placed on administrative leave June 30.

"Obviously we’re disappointed that the PBC chose to take this course rather than negotiate with Mr. Fairman," said Frederick D. Cooke Jr., Fairman’s attorney. Cooke said the board previously said it would enter into talks with Fairman to decide what his future role with the hospital would be. Cooke said the board never met with him or Fairman.

The PBC board has hired the law firm of Holland and Knight, which was used extensively by the original D.C. financial control board, to try to find a way to avoid paying Fairman the severance pay required by his contract. Fairman’s termination letter says he will not be eligible for severance if the board finds any criminal wrongdoing before Oct. 26 and he will be terminated with cause. Fairman’s contract provides for nearly $1 million in severance pay over the next three years.

The most significant change in the board’s restructuring plan is reducing D.C. General’s emergency room trauma services from Level I to a Level III. A Level I trauma center has all services from acute psychiatric services to obstetrics, oral, heart and neurological surgery, and surgery for trauma such as gunshot wounds and stab wounds available 24 hours a day. A Level III emergency room would basically be responsible for stabilizing acute trauma patients and transferring them to other hospitals. D.C. General would be able to treat cases such as asthma attack and diabetes patients who need medication in house.

The board’s restructuring plan also includes forming partnerships with other area hospitals to deliver healthcare services to residents.

The hospital administration has been under fire since media reports emerged saying D.C. General has been running an annual $30 million deficit since 1997. Fairman hotly contests the charges that he mismanaged the hospital. He said the deficits are a line of credit extended by the city in order to cover costs until the city can repay the hospital for the services it provides.

The PBC’s plan also includes eliminating all residencies, reducing the number of beds operated at the hospital, consolidating buildings and making changes in pharmacy, dietary and support operations policies.

The plan was developed by the PBC Board of Directors after reviewing reports compiled by Cambio Health Solutions. Cambio’s initial reports identified the $30 million operating deficit contested by Fairman. Cambio has since been hired to run the PBC’s financial operations.

The PBC also will begin renegotiating contracts with city agencies and will try to find ways to enforce laws that prohibit other hospitals from "dumping" uninsured patients on D.C. General, that is transporting patients to D.C. General simply because they can’t pay.

Board Chairman Julius W. Hobson said the changes will "create a more modern, yet smaller, hospital supporting the community with the delivery of essential safety net services."

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator