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Posted at 6:16 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Pushing to privatize hospital, Gray wants to expand United Medical Center board

By Nikita Stewart

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is pushing to expand the governing board of United Medical Center after four members appointed by his predecessor, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), refused to resign as he asked.

The new mayor wants to return the Southeast hospital to private ownership, a position at odds with that of the Fenty administration and council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Health.

Under emergency legislation expected to be introduced Tuesday by Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown at the mayor's request, the board would get an additional three members selected by the mayor and one member appointed by the council. The director of the Department of Health, also appointed by the mayor, would also join the board. Its membership would increase from 11 to 16.

Gray would also have the authority to designate the chairman of the newly expanded board, giving him considerable control over the direction of the board and the future of the hospital.

Recently, Gray sought the resignations of four members - former general counsel Andrew "Chip" Richardson; former chief procurement officer David Gragan; Robin-Eve Jasper, former director of the Department of Real Estate Services; and Leon Swain, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. They have been in favor of keeping the hospital afloat with government ownership and looking for a private buyer later.

"They refused," he said.

So Gray said he had to find a way around them. "We want to do everything we can to expedite the transfer of this hospital to private ownership," he said. "We've heard from many people, including our bond rating agencies that we need to move into another direction."

According to the legislation, the current board was put together hastily because of the city's need to foreclose on the hospital and get control of the hospital's assets in July.

The members, according to the legislation, were "deemed approved" because the council was in recess.

Gray, who lives in Hillcrest and is a former Ward 7 council member, said the city would not be abandoning health care east of the Anacostia River, where United Medical Center is the only hospital.

He said the city would push to make the hospital successful under private ownership. He added that two primary care clinics are opening this year east of the river.

The mayor also dismissed concerns about a conflict of interest with the hospital and lobbyist Linda Greene, whom he is dating.

Greene previously lobbied city officials on behalf of entrepreneur George Chopivsky.

"I've never had a conversation with Linda," Gray said. "I don't talk to her about her business. She doesn't talk to me about my work."

By Nikita Stewart  | February 11, 2011; 6:16 PM ET
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Someone please explain whether the four Fenty officials who refuse to leave - Richardson, Gragan, Jasper, and Swain - were chosen on the basis of personal merit and expertise in health care administration, or because they were senior and very loyal Fenty officials. I would bet anything it's the latter. In which case, it's a disgrace that they are refusing to resign. And an equal disgrace that the Council allowed Fenty, and his henchman Catania, to structure the board that way.

Posted by: nan_lynn | February 11, 2011 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Gray is spot on here. As the District assumed control over the hospital during the Fenty Administration, with the transition of leadership, like all other boards, those seats held on the board by Fenty appointees should be resigned unless the current leadership seeks to retain them.

Grays proposal is the perfect workaround. The city cannot AFFORD to run this hospital. It SHOULD be sold to a private company with experience in Hospital Administration. Those who refused to resign should be black listed. Fighting a battle to ultimately loose the war.

I expected more from Chip Richardson. How desperate.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | February 12, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

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