‘This City Needs This Hospital’: Advocates Protest Major Changes At Northeast’s Providence Hospital

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Above Photo: Sallie Brown, 75, has been a patient at Providence Hospital for more than 30 years. She said she’s “devastated” about the pending changes to the hospital. (Photo by Elly Yu)

A group of doctors, nurses, and community advocates held a rally outside Providence Hospital in northeast Washington Thursday to demand the hospital remain open as is.

Ascension, the organization that owns Providence Hospital, announced last month that it would end the hospital’s acute-care services by the end of this year and shift towards outpatient services, including preventative care, telemedicine and urgent care.

“It means that there will be no inpatient services, no emergency room services,” said Dr. Lester Miles, president of medical and dental staff at Providence Hospital, who attended the rally.

Miles said the medical staff at the hospital were caught off guard with the announcement, and weren’t told ahead of time about Ascension’s plans.

“This neighborhood and this city needs this hospital,” he said.

Wanda Toliver, a northeast D.C. resident, has been a secretary at Providence Hospital for more than 40 years. She said she’s concerned the hospital ending its inpatient services would overwhelm other hospitals in the District. Those hospitalized at Providence would need to be transferred elsewhere.

“We need our hospital to stay open for our patients,” she said.

Providence Health System released a statement about a couple of hours before the scheduled rally on Thursday. It said the health system remains committed to its mission “to serve all persons, especially those who are struggling the most, and will continue to have an important presence in the District of Columbia.”

In the statement, Providence said it had completed an assessment of the availability of health services in the region and in the neighborhood, and said the data show the District has more than twice the national average of hospital beds.

But advocates say beds are not equally distributed in D.C., and the move would further deplete the number of resources in the eastern part of the District.

The health system said it would continue to seek input from community leaders and other stakeholders and is working with the DC Hospital Association and other hospitals to “ensure a smooth transition” for the people it serves.

“We know that 15 percent of a person’s life is spent in actual healthcare, which means the remaining 85 percent is spent in other areas that either positively or negatively impact their overall well-being,” said Keith Vander Kolk, Health System President and CEO. “That is where the greatest opportunity to make meaningful change exists, and we must put our focus and energy on advancing a model of transformation that will serve the District in new and lasting ways.”

Sallie Brown, a resident of Ward 6, has been going to Providence for care for more than 30 years. She said she’s had multiple surgeries and treatments for lymphoma, leukemia, and most recently, breast cancer at the hospital.

“Basically, it’s saving my life. It’s a place to come when I’m ill, and I’m 75 years old and I don’t need to be searching for new doctors in new locations,” she said. “It’s the pulse and lifeline of the community and it would be a tragedy if all parts of the hospital are not functioning properly.”