A local governing group unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday opposing D.C. Council legislation that would expedite the construction of a new tower at the GW Hospital.
Representatives from the GW Hospital and the D.C. Council presented the Council legislation to the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, proposing a new tower at the hospital to hold 270 extra beds. Neighbors and ANC commissioners said they were concerned about the bill because it would bypass a mandatory certificate of need – which requires facilities built in the District to show why there is a public need for the project – to expedite the hospital’s construction plans.
Eric Goulet, the director and senior counsel for the D.C. Council Committee on Health, said the bill would enable the committee to expedite the process of putting the beds in operation by circumventing the usual screening procedure for hospital construction. The original opening of the new tower was slated for 2023, but the Committee on Health wants to bypass the certificate of need to open the new hospital in 2021, Goulet said.
“Timing is of the essence on this,” Goulet said. “We have a health care crisis that’s going on right now, particularly on the east end of the city, and we need to create a system – a truly integrated system – of health care for residents across the city.”
The GW Hospital announced in August that it will operate a second location in Southeast D.C. in 2023. Goulet said the additional beds in Foggy Bottom are necessary because the new branch will not have room for features like maternity wards and cardiological departments because its resources will be focused on general, short-term health needs, so the new tower in Foggy Bottom will help alleviate crowding.
Kimberly Russo, the CEO and managing director at the GW Hospital, said patients in Southeast D.C. who require more advanced or specialized health care will need to visit the GW Hospital in Foggy Bottom for treatment.
She added that the appendage to the GW Hospital is necessary because hospitals in Southeast D.C. have a history of failing to support the community. The D.C. Department of Health suspended baby delivery services at United Medical Center, a hospital in the region, in 2017 after officials found the hospital lacked proper screening, assessment and delivery procedures.
“I ask that we not let history repeat itself and we do it right for the community and for the disparities that exist in our nation’s capital,” Russo said.
Commissioners said the bill would provide the hospital with an unauthorized “blank check” because the Committee on Health and the hospital do not yet have a proposal parsing out the details for the new tower.
ANC Chairman William Kennedy Smith said the bill is the “worst piece of legislative crafting” he has seen because the Committee on Health did not consult Jack Evans – the councilmember who represents Ward 2 – or notify the University before proposing the bill.
“You have a confidential proposal that this whole program is based on that you cannot share with us, and you cannot answer a single question about the details of it and you’re coming here saying that we have to expedite this,” Smith said.
Commissioner Patrick Kennedy said the Committee on Health should expect litigation and public backlash if it presses forward with the bill because it lacks transparency and was drafted without community input.
“In the interests of protecting this relationship, and to not going back to the ‘bad old years,’ I am pleading with you to withdraw this provision from the bill,” Kennedy said.
At the meeting, the ANC also unanimously approved an application for a sidewalk cafe space outside Duke’s Grocery, whose third location was scheduled to open in the 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. complex in late 2018.
Daniel Kramer, the co-owner of Duke’s Grocery, said the restaurant’s team has been meeting with city and neighborhood government groups – like Advisory Neighborhood Commissions – to complete any steps required to open a new restaurant.
“It’s not an instantaneous process, but we’re positively engaged and looking forward to joining the Foggy Bottom community,” he said.
Kramer said the outdoor patio space – which will include eight tables and 24 chairs – is a staple of Duke’s Grocery because city residents love outdoor patios at restaurants.
“Whether it’s a cold beer on a really hot day or a hot toddy on a colder day, it’s kind of part of D.C. eating and drinking culture to be outside whenever possible, and we’re excited to be able to provide that option,” he said.
Kramer added that he is glad the restaurant’s biggest location will be on a campus where it can serve as a resource for students, faculty and alumni. The original Duke’s Grocery location is situated in Dupont Circle.
“Whether it’s a reunion or a graduation brunch or just drinks right after finals are done, we want to and are going to become a fabric of the University and of Foggy Bottom,” he said.