By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

When Providence Hospital announced it was shutting its doors for acute-care services on Dec. 14, there were mumbles around the city about the action as another form of gentrification and not providing care for District residents of color.

“This impending closure further underscores how important it is for our city to understand and provide for the health needs of its residents,” Council member Kenyan McDuffie said in a statement earlier this year when the hospital made an announcement to close its doors.

The District of Columbia sued Providence Hospital’s owners, Ascension Healthcare, on Dec. 14, the day the hospital was due to close, alleging the company was unlawfully shutting down the medical facility. (Courtesy Photo)

So on Friday the 14th– the day the hospital was to shut it doors for acute-care services- the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Ascension Healthcare, the owner and operator of Providence Hospital.  The suit alleges that the nonprofit, Catholic-based company out of St. Louis, Mo., is violating D.C. law by shutting down operations.

Per pressure from District officials, Ascension decided to extend emergency services until April of 2019.  However this temporary quick fix was not enough to stop the District from filing a suit.

According to WAMU, the lawsuit says that Ascension did not get approval from the city to close.  Furthermore it states that the shutdown, “threatens the health and welfare of Providence’s patients as well as residents of the District that may rely on Providence for emergency or other health services,” WAMU reported.

Further the lawsuit alleges that in shutting down the hospital it’s violating laws related to employees.

“Providence, by reducing staff, limiting the patients it is willing to accept, and reducing, if not altogether eliminating, services, including acute-care services, is failing to comply,” with the District’s laws, “which require that it ‘maintain a sufficient number of staff with the qualifications, training and skills necessary to meet patient needs,” the lawsuit states.

Now registered nurses from Providence and from the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) are applauding the District for their efforts sue Ascension for the shutdown.

“This move by Ascension follows a long pattern of ignoring the needs and well-being of the people of Washington, D.C. and instead following a road map laid out by executives elsewhere in the country, who don’t care what happens to the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable who receive care at our D.C. hospital,” said Elissa Curry, a registered nurse at Providence Hospital. “We know that Ascension and Providence Hospital executives have closed down units and limited patient admissions to engineer low patient volume in an effort to hide the true need that exists for a 238-bed hospital with a fully functioning emergency room and acute-care services, including surgery.”

According to a press release from the NNOC/NNU, the emergency room that Providence promised to keep open until next April, will actually be more akin to an urgent care clinic- offering only 10 to 15 beds.

“Ascension is trying to make it seem as if it is offering the same services it was prior to December 14, but what they are offering now is quite different, instead of a true emergency room, they are offering what is akin to an urgent care clinic,” Curry added. “It is not an emergency room if they do not have an operating room, or intensive care beds or any other of the acute-care services or staff. Under the current plan, the emergency room will not be able to handle an emergency such as a heart attack, or adequately treat someone critically ill with the flu, or even an older person with a broken leg.”

To add fuel to the fire, Providence did not negotiate severance packages for the nurses who lost their jobs with the shutdown.  The nurses believe their lack of severance negotiations is because of their active voices in fighting to keep the hospital’s doors open and “claim this is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act,” according to a release from NNOC/NNU.