Despite community concerns, D.C. Council members are modifying and moving forward on a bill that would allow the GW Hospital to expedite the construction of a new bed tower, the Washington Business Journal reported Friday.
The bill, which is set for a second reading Tuesday, would allow the hospital to speed up construction of the tower by bypassing regulations requiring the State Health Planning and Development Agency to determine if the project is a public need. The amended legislation proposes a 220-bed tower instead of the 270-bed structure that was initially suggested, the Business Journal reported.
Proponents of the legislation have said that the expedited process would help GW Hospital more quickly open the doors of a new hospital east of the Anacostia River that it agreed to operate earlier this year. The extra 50 beds cut from the Foggy Bottom tower in the amended legislation would be added to the East End facility, according to the Business Journal.
But local governing groups and residents have voiced concerns about the legislation, saying the bill was drafted without community input and would give a “blank check” to the hospital since officials don’t yet have a proposal for the details of the appendage.
Members of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission also said at a meeting this week that the University recently sent the ANC a letter criticizing the construction of the bed tower.
University spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton told the Washington City Paper Thursday that GW is supportive of the new hospital, but “the University does not support the construction of an additional bed tower on the Foggy Bottom Campus.”
An ANC resolution Wednesday applauded the University for its “thoughtful plan for the future of the University’s health care-related activities.”
Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Trayvon White, Brandon Todd and Charles Allen are sponsoring the bill. Only Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council member Jack Evans – who represents Ward 2, where Foggy Bottom is located – opposed the bill during its first reading earlier this month.
In a statement to the Business Journal, Gray said the final vote on the legislation will help to accelerate the process to create “a long-overdue, high-quality and truly integrated health care system serving the residents on the East End of the District.”
“I will be making some minor amendments to the legislation, which will make the deal even stronger for East End residents and will allow the partners at George Washington University more flexibility in resolving their internal negotiations,” he said.
GW Hospital CEO Kimberly Russo said in a statement to the Business Journal that the hospital supports the proposed amendment, which she said “will continue to support the creation of a comprehensive health network and will ensure that both the East End and Foggy Bottom locations are fully prepared for and equipped with the resources necessary to provide the excellent care that our residents deserve.”
“While we recognize concerns regarding the legislation, ensuring that our residents can access high-quality, equitable health care is our top priority,” Russo said.