D.C. Council ends contract with Veritas; United Medical Center board must find new operator by Dec. 1

The District of Columbia's contract with Veritas to operate United Medical Center will end Nov. 30. (Pamela Seaton/Creative Commons)

The District of Columbia Council voted not to extend its contract with a consulting company that operates the city’s only public hospital following charges of mismanagement.

The council voted 7-to-6 to end its multimillion-dollar contract with Veritas of Washington, which began operating United Medical Center (UMC) last year, according to The Washington Post. Council members who voted to end the contract said that a string of allegations of mismanagement and patient safety issues raised by staff, including by the hospital’s chief medical officer, Julian Craig, M.D., were the main factor.

Veritas’ contract will end on Nov. 30, according to the article, and the hospital’s board will have to find a new operator by Dec. 1. The contract would have been worth about $4.2 million; the District had been paying Veritas $300,000 a month to operate the hospital.

“Veritas’ performance would never have been tolerated at another District hospital,” council member and health committee chairman Vincent Gray, who introduced the legislation to end Veritas’ contract, said.

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Some council members expressed concern, however, that ending the contract will introduce further instability at an already-troubled facility, according to the article.

Veritas has been under fire for its performance in operating UMC over the past several weeks, after a Post investigation revealed details about the death of a patient in its nursing home. The man died from a heart attack after he was left on the floor for 20 minutes, calling for help, as a nurse argued with his roommate, time-stamped audio obtained by the newspaper found.

The hospital then left crucial details about the incident out of reports, the Post reported.

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The city’s Department of Health (DOH) shut down UMC’s obstetrics unit earlier this year, following several patient safety lapses. In one case, physicians at UMC delivered a baby for a patient naturally, though she was infected with HIV. (An infant delivered by cesarean section is less likely to contract the virus.)

UMC declined to respond to the allegations at the time, but said it was addressing the DOH’s concerns during the 90-day restriction.

Veritas had also previously announced that it would shake up the C-suite at the hospital and replace CEO Luis Hernandez, assuming the contract with the District was finalized.