Oct 11, 2022 - News

New Ward 8 urgent care opens in effort to expand health care access

Ribbon cutting inside new clinic

D.C. and GW Hospital leaders cut the ribbon inside the new clinic. From left: Ward 8 Council member Trayon White, Mayor Muriel Bowser, GW University Hospital CEO Kimberly Russo, Ward 7 community leader Wendell Felder, and Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

A new urgent care center that opened Monday in Ward 8 is the first step in a larger effort to bring a comprehensive health care system east of the Anacostia River.

The big picture: D.C. has put $375 million toward upgrading health care services in wards 7 and 8, aimed at targeting health disparities in the predominantly Black, underserved wards where more than 154,000 residents live.

  • The new, $1.8 million Cedar Hill Urgent Care Facility, named in a nod toward Frederick Douglass' nearby estate, is just one piece of the plan.
  • It's the only urgent care in that area serving adults.

Zoom in: Rates of cancer, including breast, liver, and colon, are much higher among wards 7 and 8 residents compared to the rest of the District, per a 2020 report by the city.

  • A 2020 Georgetown University study also found that the life expectancy of residents in wards 7 and 8, where more than 90% of residents are Black, was 12-15 years lower than in other, predominantly white wards.
  • For example, the life expectancy of residents in Ward 8 was 72, compared to 87 in Ward 3, which includes the Palisades, Cleveland Park, and Chevy Chase.

Zoom out: In addition to new urgent care centers in both wards (Ward 7's is expected to open at the end of 2023), the multi-million dollar health care investment will bring 136 beds to a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths East campus in Ward 8.

  • It will include a trauma center, ICU, women's health care services, and a neonatal unit operated by Children's National Hospital.
  • Last month, United Health Services, which will own and operate the hospital in partnership with George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, funneled another $17 million into the facility to add a fourth floor.
  • It's expected to serve residents in both wards.

The new hospital will replace the United Medical Center, the only hospital in Ward 8, which has been entangled in financial mismanagement for years. In 2018, it was forced to close its obstetrics ward after regulators found "dangerous mistakes."

  • UMC is set to close when the new hospital, called the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center, opens in early 2025. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage, who is on UMC's board, tells Axios the hospital will soon begin the process of phasing down some operations based on changes in patient loads, but the hospital will remain fully functional until Cedar Hill opens its doors.

What they're saying: Propping up the new health care system will help get people in "early and often, in a prevention mode. So people won't delay care," Turnage tells Axios.

  • Turnage says the system's timeline is moving "along as we'd hoped," despite the pandemic leading to some delays.

State of play: The urgent care, expected to serve 8,800 patients in its first year, will be open seven days a week and will offer testing and treatment for medical issues including cold symptoms and urinary tract infections, as well as provide x-rays and basic lab work.


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