Ascension's plan to close DC hospital to face roadblocks, city officials say

Washington, D.C., officials said they will do everything they can to keep St. Louis-based Ascension from closing Washington, D.C.-based Providence Health System later this year, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The D.C. Council held a meeting Oct. 10 to discuss potential strategies to keep Providence open for at least the next three years. Hospital staff members and concerned community members also attended the meeting, the report states.

Council members told the Washington Business Journal they aim to stall the hospital's planned Dec. 14 closure through legislation that would require hospitals to inform the public of their intentions and obtain city approval for closure. One city council member told the publication they have sent a bill to the city's budget and attorney general offices to identify any fiscal issues or legal impediments to the legislation before pushing it forward.

"If Providence Hospital closes, at best, this will merely exacerbate the significant health service inequities in the District of Columbia. And worse, the closure will create significant disruption in the district's emergency healthcare system or place another hospital in perilous financial distress," the city council member told the Washington Business Journal.

Ascension, which did not send representatives to the Oct. 10 meeting, announced plans earlier this year to reposition the hospital as a "health village" and shutter select services at the facility. The decision drew criticism from community members, hospital staff and public officials.

The city council member told the Washington Business Journal the council's chief concern is that Ascension's plan to close the hospital would create significant issues for patients on the eastern side of the city, who would need to travel further to obtain care.

The individual also pointed to the Catholic health system's lack of a relationship with the local community and hospital leadership. Earlier this year, Ascension abruptly fired nine of the Providence's 12 board members.

In an Oct. 11 statement to Becker's Hospital Review, an Ascension spokesperson said: "To be clear, the decision to close Providence Hospital was not an easy one. For many years, Providence has been performing very poorly financially. Providence is simply not serving this community in a sustainable way: its discharges have been declining over the past five years, and the District of Columbia's data show that the hospital is underutilized. Further, studies have indicated that the highest healthcare needs in the D.C. community include providing place-based care and care coordination. Instead of investing in an underperforming hospital facility, we are committed to transforming Providence into a new healthcare delivery system.

"As we re-envision the new Providence, we are actively engaging with members of the D.C. community to ensure that the services that Providence will provide make a substantive impact on the health of the D.C. community. Providence has been holding internal listening sessions with associates and attending community meetings to share information and obtain thoughts on the future of Providence. We have assembled transition teams representing associates and physicians to help define transition plans. We are regularly engaging with the D.C. Department of Health and, in partnership with the D.C. Hospital Association, we created workgroups with other local hospitals and healthcare institutions that meet regularly to ensure a smooth transition of services and patients.

"We will have more plans to share and continue to collaborate and seek input from internal and external stakeholders, community leaders and partners. The new Providence will look to transform the way care is delivered in the District with a new community-focused perspective that addresses healthcare inequities and provides other types of needed services to improve health and wellness. The effort will sustain Providence for generations to come while improving the health of the community it is privileged to serve."

To access the full report, click here.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 7:45 a.m. Oct. 12 to include additional comment from Ascension.

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