Troubled Howard University Hospital Cutting Staff - Higher Education
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Troubled Howard University Hospital Cutting Staff

by B. Denise Hawkins

By June 30, the financially troubled Howard University Hospital (HUH) will lose 10 percent of its workforce; not even management will be spared during the reduction, said its CEO James Edwards in a statement issued Tuesday to the Howard University community.

Announcing that “HUH has arrived at a critical juncture that requires new adjustments to its staffing model,” Edwards indicated that approximately 110 employees throughout all levels at the urban Washington, D.C., hospital will be cut. This round of staff reductions is part of HUH’s strategic efforts to turn around the ailing hospital while it ensures that the university can continue to thrive.

“Over the past two years,” Edwards said, increasing patient revenues, a part of the hospital’s turnaround plan, and efforts to narrow financial losses, are working. The day-to-day driver behind the turnaround plan has been the El Segundo, California-based Paladin Healthcare Capital. HUH hired the management company in late 2014 just as it posted a $58 million loss for that fiscal year. According to the Washington Business Journal, the hospital trimmed its losses to $19 million, and so far, for the first eight months of fiscal year 2016, losses total $10 million.

Not unlike other national, academic medical facilities, Howard University Hospital has bowed under the weight of “shrinking reimbursements, decreasing patient volume, and operational inefficiencies,” Edwards added. But moving forward, Edward said, “Ensuring quality care for our patients remains our top priority, and we are executing against a very thoughtful reduction in force that will help us preserve care and enable us to remain a critical access destination for the District’s most vulnerable residents.”

The roots of the medical center, formerly known as Freedman’s Hospital, date back to 1862. It was once the only refuge for ex-slaves to find medical care that they were denied elsewhere. The current, sprawling hospital that sits adjacent to the campus and along the Georgia Avenue corridor was built in 1974. But the robust restructuring plan that’s underway has left many wondering if selling the historic hospital will be next.

For more than a century, Howard’s medical school and hospital have served as a training ground for many of the nation’s top Black medical doctors. One of them is Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick, a triple Howard alumnus and a surgeon. Today, though, Frederick suggests that he is prepared to let the storied hospital go and follow the lead of other local institutions that have also struggled to operate both a hospital and a university. George Washington University, for example, turned over the responsibility for running its hospital to partner Universal Health Services, Inc. and Georgetown University sold its facility to MedStar.

And the fate of Howard University Hospital?

“I don’t think we need to own [a hospital] in today’s world, said Frederick in a recent interview with the Washington City Paper.

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