By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO
Protesters gathered across the street from the John A. Wilson building Tuesday to protest, what organizers consider, harsh cuts on the United Medical Center in Ward 8 that would impact staff, and the community seeking those services.
“The reason why we were out there is we wanted to make sure a second vote on the budget knew that residents and union workers wanted to share their disappointment to the slashing of the UMC budget to $15 million,” said Djawa Hall, political organizer for 1199 SEIU Maryland/DC.
“We’ve been advocating that these cuts would cripple the hospital with this heavy and direct a cut to services and workers, and would be a real hit to the quality of care, it would also mean overcrowding at other hospitals.”
The mayor’s office had proposed $40 million in subsidies for UMC. During the first D.C. Council vote that number was dropped to $15 million with a July 15 implementation deadline of the cuts.
Hall said of the July 15 deadline: “There was no sort of forewarning or way on how they were going to make these cuts.”
Thankfully Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White Sr., introduced a bill that would up the subsidies by $3 million. Council Chair Phil Mendelson also raised the initial offering by about $4 million bringing the new total to $22 million subsidies to support UMC.
During the legislative meeting Council member White spoke of the urgent need for the hospital in his ward. “Just this holiday weekend there were multiple shootings and stabbing in my ward. Just yesterday there were 7 people shot.”
“We’re in a situation where it’s life or death for a lot of residents east of the Anacostia River, so the hospital conversation is priority for us.”
While we are anticipating a brand new facility coming to the east end…we are not in favor of slashing funds at this time. So that the hospital can be inoperable. We want to support the nurses that are there and the staff that are there that we believe are giving high quality service to the District of Columbia.”
It was the full restoration of the full $40 million initially proposed in the spring by the Mayor’s office.
“It’s not a complete victory,” Hall said, “But it’s much better with the additional funds.”
In a tweet today State Board of Education Vice President Markus Batchelor said: “Thanks to @TrayonWhite for working to hold back at least some of the flood of disinvestment this budget sought for @unitedmedicaldc. Our neighbors and families need quality care — and elected leaders they can trust to fight for it.”
The United Medical Center has been a contested topic for D.C. officials and residents. It stands as the only public hospital in D.C. and is the only one serving residents across the river.
UMC has faced trials from leadership upheavals, to bankruptcies. With the budget passed, the Mayor has an option to sign it, and move it forward to Congress or veto it and send it back to the Council.
The AFRO will follow this story.