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District taps familiar partner to study United Medical Center replacement

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The District has hired the health care consulting company formerly responsible for helping turn around city-owned United Medical Center to oversee planning for a new hospital east of the Anacostia River.

umc06 copyThe District has hired Huron Consulting Group, United Medical Center's former turnaround consultant, to oversee planning for a new hospital east of the Anacostia River.
The D.C. Department of Health Care Finance announced Monday it awarded Huron Consulting Group a six-month contract worth $995,815, just shy of the $1 million threshold that would require D.C. Council approval.

Under the contract, Huron will prepare a comprehensive report for the Office of the City Administrator that analyzes the following: the effect of national health policy on D.C.'s future health needs, inpatient and outpatient trends for other health systems in the region, financing options and potential partnership that would allow the District to get out of the hospital business.

The award comes just days before the D.C. Council health committee, led by Councilman and former Mayor Vincent Gray, D-Ward 7, considers his proposed legislation to require construction of a new community hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus and establish the East End Medical Center Fund. Gray did not respond to a request for comment.

Last June, Mayor Muriel Bowser revived the idea to build a new hospital east of the Anacostia, hiring a contractor to study multiple city-owned sites. A feasibility study is underway with a report expected this summer.

When he was running for re-election as mayor in 2014, Gray had originally proposed a new $300 million hospital on St. E's, but then he lost the Democratic primary to Bowser. The council ultimately did not fund his proposal. Gray has since positioned himself for a fight with Bowser over the hospital issue, grilling the city's health experts and Bowser administration officials about the need to move faster on building a new hospital.

Huron was initially hired under the Gray administration in 2013 under a $12.7 million, two-year contract to serve as the District-funded hospital operator for the troubled UMC. It developed a strategic plan that called for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending and the "immediate pursuit" of a private sector partner to help revive the struggling facility.

When Huron's contract ran out, the District hired yet another turnaround specialist named Veritas of Washington LLC to take over UMC's operations. Months later, hospital officials revealed financial struggles and announced layoffs of 112 union and nonunion employees to help cut $10 million in expenses.