D.C. Council member Vincent Gray made it clear that the management at the United Medical Center (UMC) in Ward 8 was subpar and he wants the Bowser administration to do something about it.

Vincent Gray represents Ward 7 on the D.C. Council is taking on the Bowser administration to change the management at the United Medical Center. (Courtesy photo)

Gray, a Democrat who represents Ward 7 on the D.C. Council, was a panelist at a Ward 8 Democrats forum, “Increasing Access to Health Care: Progress and Concerns Regarding Health Care on the East End of the District” that took place at UMC on Oct. 21. Gray, who chairs the Committee on Health, told a gathering of 40 people that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and team haven’t made good decisions that are in the best interest of the patients of the hospital and the city by retaining the management team, Veritas.

“United Medical Center is a troubled hospital,” Bowser told the AFRO on Oct. 23. “It is the board that hires the management team and what the board says goes.”

The chairman of the UMC board is former Ward 8 D.C. Council member LaRuby May, who is a close political ally of Bowser’s. Bowser appointed May to the position earlier this year and she was approved by the council without controversy.

On Oct. 17, Gray, along with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), David Grosso (I-At Large), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), and Robert White (D-At Large) filed a resolution to disapprove with the Veritas contract, worth $4,173,951. On Oct. 6, Gray said that Veritas has done a poor job managing UMC.

“I have very serious concerns about the performance of Veritas,” he said. “When it comes to patient safety, there needs to be a citywide high standard of care and performance that is viewed acceptable.”

While UMC has a long history of management and financial issues, the latest episode involved the obstetrical unit being shut down by the D.C. Department of Health for 90 days on Aug. 7. “Because of this shutdown,” Gray said at the meeting, “women will have to travel to other parts of the city to have their babies and to get care. That’s not right.”

Gray held a hearing on Sept. 22 to check the status of the obstetrics unit and said he wasn’t pleased with what he heard. “It appears that very little discernable progress had been made,” he said. “I expected to see a sense of urgency, and instead, I saw nothing that made me feel like things were moving in the right direction. Even more concerning, it was suggested that OB services may never return to UMC.”

UMC is the only comprehensive hospital on the East End of the District.

On Oct. 2, the District of Columbia Nurses Association voted “no confidence” in UMC’s leadership. Since that time, Veritas has removed its CEO, Luis Hernandez, and has recommended to the UMC board that David Boucree become the interim CEO until a permanent leader can be found.

At the Ward 8 meeting, Gray made a remark noting that David Boucree had “some relation” to Veritas President Chrystie Boucree. Chrystie and David are cousins. Gray wasn’t pleased with the action, saying “this is an indication of how serious the operational problems are at UMC.”

As mayor, Gray facilitated the hiring of Huron Consulting to manage UMC but the Bowser administration changed course and brought in Veritas in April 2016.

A Committee on Health roundtable, chaired by Gray, on UMC is scheduled for Oct. 30.

Gray said at the meeting that he wanted a new East End hospital. He explained that the $300 million allocated for the East End hospital was taken out of the budget and whittled down to a significantly less amount. However, he told the meeting that he managed to get the money back for the East End hospital at St. Elizabeth’s East this past budget season and will continue to fight for it.