A proposal by GW Hospital and its for-profit partner to purchase Columbia Hospital for Women was rejected by Columbia’s board of directors last month, quashing hopes for an expanded women’s health facility at GW for now.
District Hospital Partners Inc., the partnership formed between Universal Health Services Inc. and GW Hospital this summer, proposed the union of GW and Columbia hospitals to eliminate duplicate services in the community, said Richard C. Wright, Universal’s vice president for development.
UHS and GW officials said a confidentiality agreement prevented them from discussing details of the proposal.
“It was District Hospital Partners’ goal to establish a partnership to consolidate women’s services with Columbia, making the Columbia-GW team the predominant women’s services provider in the District,” said Phillip Schaengold, chief executive officer of GW Hospital.
But in a move that Wright said “defies all logic,” the board of directors of the financially struggling women’s hospital unanimously rejected the plan Sept. 30.
“The administration and the board of directors (of Columbia Hospital) felt the proposal was not in the best interest of the hospital’s future or in the best interest of community service,” said Columbia spokesperson Mary Beth Emerson.
Sandy Chamblee, the chairman of Columbia’s board of directors, did not return phone calls, but she told The Washington Post Oct. 14 that “the hospital has been in a delicate financial situation.”
Schaengold said Columbia Hospital issued a request for proposals last spring, but he said GW was the only hospital to submit a bid.
The offer to buy Columbia was part of District Hospital Partners’ plan to enhance women’s health facilities at GW Hospital, Wright said. But he said the partnership will begin physical improvements on the existing facilities and initiate plans to upgrade its labor and delivery services.
“In the end, there will be a new facility for women’s health at GW,” Wright said.
Rich James, director of public relations at GW Medical Center, said UHS focuses on women’s health services at its other facilities around the nation.
Founded in 1866, Columbia Hospital caters almost exclusively to women and newborns. The not-for-profit hospital, on 25th and L streets, is nationally known for its advances in gynecological surgery, management of high-risk pregnancies and neonatal intensive care.
Wright said the proposal made economic sense, reducing competition and eliminating duplicate services.
“There’s competition between Columbia and GW hospitals in that medical faculty and physicians compete for patients,” Wright said.
Schaengold agreed that GW and Columbia are “very competitive.”
“Now that we can’t work with them ,we will be forced to be even more aggressive in competing with them,” Schaengold said.
But Emerson said the two facilities are not competitive – one focuses on women’s specialty health, the other is a community acute-care provider with emergency services.
“Columbia Hospital could never pretend to be all things to all people,” Emerson said, adding that the hospitals work together to ensure that the community’s needs are being met. “Our relationship with GW’s hospital will continue to be cordial, sharing and friendly.”
James said UHS is interested in increasing its partnerships and affiliations in the area, and is holding meetings with local institutions to discuss possible alliances.
“Right now, we’re primarily focused on forming better relationships with physicians in the area,” James said. “They don’t recommend patients to us as much as we would like.”
Schaengold said the enhancement plan is more global than just women’s health.
“We want to form a regional network with GW as the center,” he said.