One of the most established hospitals in the District of Columbia has started a program that will assist residents of Ward 7 and Ward 8 in meeting their health needs, amid worries that communities East of the River are not getting proper access to healthcare facilities.

Sibley Memorial Hospital, located in Ward 3 in Northwest D.C., and a member of the Johns Hopkins Medicine network, has launched Ward Infinity, a program that aims to speed up innovation in community health in the East End of the city. Ward Infinity, which launched in the summer, issued a call for applications from teams of residents from Wards 7 and 8 to develop and implement creative solutions to help improve the health and lives of their neighbors.

Sibley Memorial Hospital, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, is located in predominantly White Ward 3. (AFRO File Photo)

“We serve all of our community,” Marissa I. McKeever, the director of government and community affairs for Sibley, told the AFRO. “This is an extension and reflection of our founding mission.”

Sibley was founded in 1890 and offers a 318-bed medical facility that offers medical services, surgery, intensive care, obstetric, oncology, orthopedic and skilled nursing inpatient services and a state-of-the-art 24 hour Emergency Department. Its president and CEO is Dr. Richard O. Davis. Because of its location, Sibley’s patient population tends to be majority White.

McKeever said she realized that East End residents have limited options regarding health care with the United Medical Center in Ward 8 dealing with years of financial issues, a vote of no confidence by its nurses and an abrupt management that was facilitated by D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7). She said Ward Infinity is in the East End to help and not replace plans for UMC or Howard Hospital, which recently made a deal with Unity Health Care to provide obstetrics access to lower income areas in D.C.

“We are bolstering significant resources to the East End community,” she said. “We are planning on building strategic partnerships with community organizations, increasing our outreach and implementing community-based programming.”

Ward Infinity awarded grants of approximately $25,000 to four grantees, including Diane Brent-Farmer, along with her sister Hortense Brent, who have a program called “Healthcare vs. Sickcare” that will coach people to become more healthy.

Deborah Nix, along with Brenda Liddell, have a program called “Disproportionate Impact” that will focus on entrepreneurship to improve residents’ health while John Johnson, along with Tamika “Love” Jones and Jason Anderson have a program called “Hear my Voice” that will stress healing through the artistic expression of dance, music, the visual arts and storytelling. Mary Blackford, along with Jacob Clark, will focus on social entrepreneurship to improve people’s health.

McKeever said there are no plans at this time to set up Sibley facilities in the East End.

“It is premature to speculate on that,” she said. “We are early in the process on this and we will access where we are down the road.”

McKeever said that the Ward Infinity grantees will point out the health priorities of the community and will apply those to their projects.

“We are aware of the ailments that afflict Ward 7 and 8 residents but those residents can also use our cancer care services,” she said.

McKeever said that the grantees and the residents are the experts on their health concerns and they will drive the program and the narrative.

“This is just the beginning,” she said. “We want the residents of Ward 7 and 8 to become change agents regarding their health issues and this program will continue to be community led.”

Ambrose Lane Jr., the leader of Ward 7’s Health Alliance Network, an umbrella organization of non-profits charged with meeting the needs of East End residents, told the AFRO that Ward Infinity “is a good attempt to try to engage community partners by Sibley.”

“I do wonder how effective it will be?” he said. “You really can’t do much with $25,000. You can create a program but is it sustainable?”