GW broke ground in a ceremony Wednesday at the site of the soon-to-be-built GW Hospital, much to the dismay of some Foggy Bottom residents who protested the groundbreaking.
The new $96 million facility, funded by the partnership between Universal Health Services, Inc., and GW, will be the District’s first new hospital in 20 years. The hospital will have an improved emergency room, an improved trauma center and state-of-the-art medical and information technology.
Some neighborhood residents disapprove of the project. Members of the Foggy Bottom Association are concerned the new hospital may increase traffic and lead to more noise pollution with wailing ambulance sirens.
Opponents of the new facility picketed outside the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.
“The location of the new site makes no sense,” FBA President Ellie Becker said. “There’s going to be a loading dock on 24th Street that will have several tractor-trailers coming out of it every day – an emergency entrance. This is going to cause even more congestion and danger to pedestrian traffic than what we have now.”
The hospital’s main entrance will face 23rd Street, directly across from the existing hospital and adjacent to the Foggy Bottom Metro station entrance. The emergency entrance will be south of Washington Circle, between New Hampshire Avenue and 23rd Street.
Dr. Ben Klotz, a professor on leave from Temple University, was on hand for the event and said a new hospital might not be the best thing for GW.
“I’ve seen this before at Temple,” Klotz said. “Hospitals are closing all over the country, and jobs are dropping. I know Georgetown (University) has incurred heavy losses with their hospital, and this is going to drain the University’s budget. There’s going to be no money left for classes or (teaching assistants) that speak English.”
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said Georgetown Hospital has sustained what he said were “operating losses,” but he declined to comment to what extent.
GW Hospital CEO Phillip S. Schaengold said he was “absolutely thrilled and excited to be part this milestone, which is the result of the great spirit of cooperation, partnership and shared goals that exist among the University, GW Hospital, and Universal Health Services, Inc.”
Trachtenberg said he appealed for “recommitting to GW’s medical school and academic medical facilities, both of which will be crucial to our – and the District’s – future.” He said FBA’s protests and concerns regarding traffic and noise pollution are a “non-issue.”
“Their concerns have been addressed to the appropriate government offices and do not pose a problem,” Trachtenberg said.
Trachtenberg said the hospital has filed the necessary paperwork.
“All permits, with the exception of a few loose ends, have been taken care of, as has the environmental impact assessment,” Trachtenberg said.
According to D.C. law, ceremonial groundbreakings are allowed without a building permit, but all contractors are required to file an environmental impact assessment with the D.C. Health Department.
The officials at the ceremony did not indicate what would be done with the existing hospital but said the new hospital would benefit the community in the long run.
“I know that some of the residents are complaining, but you’re going to get that in any metropolitan setting,” Trachtenberg said. “Besides, when they get sick, they’ll be coming to us for help.”
This article appeared in the October 7, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.