Emergency Healthcare in Ward 5: A Looming Crisis

The impending closure of Providence Hospital’s Acute Care services in April of this year doesn\’t bode well for Washington Hospital Center. A recent trip to its emergency room tore asunder the esteem and prominence this facility once held. The ER is an orchestrated chaos of doctors, nurses, patients, a triage center, orderlies, security, EMTs and enough moans and groans to go around, all squeezed into an incredibly small area. That paled in comparison to the hallways of gurneys with patients lined up like abandoned railcars at Union Station waiting for a room.

The patient waiting room doubled as a consulting area and administration processing station. Just sitting there I could ascertain that the patient behind me was probably suffering from acid reflux, another patient phone number and address were \”whispered\” 10 feet across the room to the administrator completing her insurance info. The patient beside me said he had been sitting there for 5 hours waiting to be called. He suggested that maybe if he pricked his finger and showed some blood that maybe he would be called next. Even one of the orderlies asked a patient he seemed to recognize why they come here.

\”It’s always like this”, were the words of one nurse moving from one patient to another. Why should we trend our expectations downward? For urgent care done right? Why should an orderly ask a patient why didn’t they go somewhere else like GW (George Washington University Hospital) for treatment? Why were the young lady’s telephone number and address being “whispered“ to the intake registrar who was 10 feet away? And why did I need to know that the patient behind me was probably suffering from acid reflux?

Waiting rooms are becoming sideshows for Willie the wine-o, loud personal cell phone conversations (in the no cell phone area with charging stations), potential confrontations and any number of spectacles. One patient advised me of the best times to come to the ER. He said to stay away from prime time because it\’s really a zoo. However, watching these nurses, doctors, interns, and orderlies maneuver in areas so tight that one misstep right or left would find them all tumbling like a set of misaligned dominoes, was impressive. Taking on all comers, even the patients no one would want to deal with. Not for lack of cleanliness or need, but seeing healthcare providers as piñatas to take their own frustrations out on. The vast majority of ER personnel blocking it all out and forging onward.

The Council of the District of Columbia held a public hearing in October of 2018. Every Ward 5 resident should view this hearing. It spells out both the seemingly inadequate response by our Mayor and the D.C. Board of Health in allowing this possible atrocity. Please take some time to watch this hearing. “The Department of Health’s Role in Approving Providence Hospital’s Proposed Elimination of Acute Care Services and the Impact on the District’s Emergency Health Care System” Be advised it takes about 5 minutes for the video to start.


Council of the Distict of Columbia
Committee on Health
Public Oversight Hearing
There\’s a looming crisis in Ward 5. It\’s going to take all of us to stand up and show that class, access, and privilege cannot be the criteria for providing quality emergecny care.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *