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United Medical Center leaders allegedly planned to close obstetrics ward before public health officials ordered shutdown

Leaders at Washington, D.C.-based United Medical Center allegedly planned to close the hospital's obstetrics ward before district regulators ordered a 90-day shutdown of the ward over safety issues, according to confidential documents obtained by The Washington Post.

District regulators ordered UMC to close the ward for 90 days Aug. 7, citing deficiencies in the department's screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols. After the nursery and delivery rooms were inactive for more than four months, the board voted in December to close the center permanently.

Former employees of the unit told The Washington Post they believed plans were already in place to eliminate the services prior to the shutdown because hospital managers did not provide proper staff or resources to the maternal department for months. The newly disclosed documents support their claims.

The documents, which shed new light on the closure that caused uproar from maternal-health activists, show consultants running the public hospital prepared a proposal to close the maternity ward. The proposal noted the financial drain of the ward and concerns over the quality of care provided in the unit. It was submitted to the D.C. Department of Health in an email Aug. 6, a day before the shutdown was ordered.

However, in previous statements to the D.C. Council after the ordered shutdown, hospital officials said they were surprised about the district regulators' decision and suggested it was possible the facility would reopen, according to The Washington Post.

It is unclear how long the submitted proposal outlined in the email was pending and if the decision to close the ward in December was a result of the proposal. Hospital board members never publicly discussed their proposal of closing the ward prior to the shutdown, the report notes.

"United Medical Center does not have a comment because this is privileged and confidential information, and the property of United Medical Center only," hospital board secretary Mike Austin told The Washington Post.

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