Updated December 5, 2018, 9:00 a.m. EDT
Howard University’s hospital and medical school program cleared one major legislative hurdle toward securing their future.
The D.C. City Council added an amendment on Tuesday that would include Howard’s participation in a proposed community hospital in Southeast Washington, though George Washington University Hospital would operate it. The original bill had excluded Howard.
A final vote on the bill was expected to happen on Tuesday. However, passage of the amendment prompted the lawmakers to reschedule it for Dec. 18.
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman successfully introduced the amendments in opposition to Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, the Washington City Paper reported.
Howard campaigned to be included in the operation of the new hospital. It warned that exclusion would result in harm to the training of more than 1,000 of its health professional students, as well as the health care services it provides to residents.
Howard University issued a call to action over a city council proposal that threatens both the future of its medical school program and its ability to serve the health care needs of folks in its community.
At issue is the East End Health Equity Act, a bill that the D.C. City Council planned to take up for a vote on Tuesday.
Passage would clear the way for a new community hospital in Southeast Washington operated by George Washington University Hospital and exclude the participation of Howard University College of Medicine.
“As a result, the more than 1,000 health professional students currently being trained at Howard will be in severe jeopardy,” a statement on the university’s website said. “We remind everyone that more than 90 percent of these students are from underrepresented minority groups whose predecessors have long demonstrated a willingness to serve citizens of the District and surrounding communities, as well as our nation.”
As the proposal stands, it could also steer patients away from Howard University Hospital, which has primarily served residents of Wards 7 and 8 throughout its 150-year history. Both wards were made up of predominantly African-American residents, according to city government data covering 2005 to 2009. Ward 7 was 96 percent Black, and Ward 8 was 94 percent Black, according to the most recent statistics available.
Ward 7 D.C. Council member Vincent Gray introduced the East End Health Equity Act in September to accelerate the development of the hospital, which was expected to open in 2023, according to the DC Line. He argued that five years from now is too long of a wait considering his constituents’ urgent need for quality health care.
“It’s time for the city’s leadership to show the same urgency for the new hospital as was done for Major League Baseball,” Gray said at a legislative hearing on the proposal in October.
If Gray has his way, the passage of the legislation would expedite completion by Dec. 31, 2021.
Concerns were raised by some legislators about the negative impact the hospital would have on Howard’s future. But it’s unclear which way the council was leaning.