GW hospital begins construction amid news of local lawsuit

The University began construction on a new state-of-the art hospital last week, the District’s first in 20 years, while local residents announced a lawsuit against the hospital.

The Foggy Bottom Association filed a suit March 20 in the D.C. Court of Appeals against the D.C. Board of Zoning to force further environmental tests on possible toxic waste risks and traffic safety. Although GW was not named as a defendant, it was named as a respondent, meaning it will have to answer in legal proceedings.

Michael Thomas, vice president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said the BZA must file a response by April 20. Barbara Porter, GW’s director of public affairs, declined comment on the suit.

Thomas said the FBA hopes that the court will order further tests.

The desired result is that we end up with a modern university hospital, but one that is built after the appropriate environmental tests . and without adverse effects to the community, Thomas said.

The new facility, built next to the Foggy Bottom Metro station, will house 371 beds and employ about 1,500 professionals and a staff of about 900 physicians, according to a University press release.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held in October.

The University maintains a 20-percent stake in the new hospital in a partnership with Universal Health Services, Inc., a corporation out of Pennsylvania, Porter said.

The new hospital will provide a larger emergency room to accommodate the 45,000 patients seen each year. The hospital will provide a greater capacity for private rooms, according to the press release.

I think by and large (the neighborhood) is very supportive of having a state-of-the-art facility, Porter said.

Michael Thomas, vice president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said residents were unhappy with the hospital’s plan for construction.

The site they want to put it on is very problematic, said Thomas, citing the lack of space for emergency access vehicles.

I think everybody would like to see a modern hospital facility because the old one is 50 years old, and it has generated some difficulties, Thomas said. A new or renovated building is a good thing for the community, he said.

Thomas said although the hospital conducted a preliminary environmental screening, it did not conduct a complete environmental analysis. As a result, Thomas said the hospital only looked at air quality standards and did not look at possible toxic waste risks and traffic safety.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has stated that although construction might result in the loss of trees, the University will plant two trees in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood for every tree lost, according to the press release.

The hospital plans to complete construction by 2002.

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