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| Paulson & Nace

On Tuesday, August 7th, the D.C. Department of Health ordered United Medical Center (UMC) to stop delivering babies and offering prenatal care for the next 90 days. This is an unfortunate turn of events as the hospital is the only healthcare facility to service Southeast D.C.

The health department shared little information regarding the suspension, only stating that the hospital had deficiencies in screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols. They department did say that the suspension could be lifted before the end of the 90-day period if the hospital was to “implement its plan for obstetrics and nursery services” and pass a re-inspection.

For the local community, this is the only nearby full-service hospital. The closure will now force expecting mothers and those with newborns to travel 20 minutes or more to a hospital that’s on the other side of the Anacostia River—something that is not feasible for many of the area residents.

Councilman Vince Gray, once the mayor of Washington D.C. and now representing the economically challenged area of Ward 7 (UMC is located in neighboring Ward 8), released a statement saying: “I am incredibly concerned that residents on the East End of the District no longer have the option to have their babies delivered at an East End hospital. It is far past time to finally bring health equity to the East End of the city.” Not to be confused with health equality, health equity strives to give everyone a fair and impartial opportunity to live a long and healthy life.

People of the area were first introduced to UMC in the 1960s (originally called Morris Cafritz Memorial Hospital and then Greater Southeast Community Hospital) and it has provided thousands of residents with the health care they needed over the years. Unfortunately, the facility filed for bankruptcy in the late 90s and has been impeded by financial impasses ever since. It’s important that health care be accessible, but no one wants sub-standard care. Similarly, it was less than a year ago that Prince George’s Hospital Center shut down their neonatal intensive care unit for almost two months after the discovery of potentially deadly bacterium in the water supply. This brings to mind another article I posted on the occurrence of medical errors at hospitals—something the profession calls “nevers” because they never should happen (yet they do so at an alarming rate). As a society, we should never expect a mother to forego proper care during delivery or afterward—regardless of where she and her child live.

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