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| Paulson & Nace

Dr. Julian Craig has practiced internal and pulmonary medicine for almost 30 years, he is a past president of the Medical Society of D.C. and he has overseen clinical care as the chief medical officer at United Medical Center (UMC) since 2015—a role that will terminate on December 18th as the hospital has dismissed the doctor after he blew the whistle on what he felt was inappropriate conduct by a contractor that was brought in to resolve ongoing performance issues at UMC.

Problems first came to the attention of the public in August, when the D.C. Department of Health ordered UMC to stop delivering babies and offering prenatal care for 90 days. I discussed this turn of events in a blog at the time, pointing out the unfortunate nature of the situation as UMC was the only healthcare facility to serve an area of Southeast D.C., whose expectant mothers then had to travel 20 minutes or more to the next closest facility. A month later, The Washington Post published a letter from the District Health Department that outlined numerous “deficiencies” in prenatal screening, assessment and child-delivery protocol. Yet, even with such evidence, officials on either side were unwilling to comment further as to the shutdown. Compounding the dilemma, news broke shortly after detailing how UMC failed to notify a family of a patient’s death—for over a week.

Previously, the District had brought in Veritas of Washington LLC, a small-sized consulting firm, to help with managing the hospital, stabilizing its finances and hiring new staff in an effort to correct such lapses in proper patient care. Yet, positive changes were few and far between, so the D.C. Council’s health committee conducted hearings to examine their performance. Dr. Craig is one hospital official who stepped forward, denouncing Veritas with accusations of mismanagement and illegal overbilling of federal insurance programs. Additionally, Craig claimed that Luis Hernandez—a Veritas employee and the hospital’s acting CEO—encouraged doctors to boost hospital revenue by admitting patients who might not really need treatment. Veritas’ owner, Chrystie Boucrée, denied such charges by stating her company was part of a “remarkably self-serving and false narrative” on the part of Dr. Craig. Regardless, the D.C. Council voted on November 7th not to extend the multimillion-dollar contract with Veritas. Council member and health committee chairman Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) justified the decision by stating, “Veritas’s performance would never have been tolerated at another District hospital.”

While testimony from Craig and others cemented the Council’s decision to cancel the contract, it potentially resulted in the doctor losing his position with UMC. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) did not necessarily agree with the decision, stating that “You shouldn’t be fired for being a whistleblower.” And Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who also voted to sever the city’s relationship with Veritas, added, “This looks like a classic retaliation to me.” Regardless of the reason, this unfortunate outcome is yet another issue that serves to further destabilize a public service that should provide for the people of the community above any individual agendas.

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