No, not “Wallach,” as in Eli Wallach, as in “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”. That’s WAHLUC, as in Washington Adventist Hospital Land Use Committee, as in “We’re Good and Ticked Off and It’s Going to Get Ugly”
The committee presented a bubbling-hot report to the city council Monday June 13.
What the report boils down to is that the Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) MAY be shafting Takoma Park. That’s what it looks like, pending reassurance from WAH that it isn’t, says the committee.
The Washington Adventist Hospital, currently located in Takoma Park, is planning (pending permission of the state health commission) to relocate to White Oak, an outer suburb. The city is dismayed to lose it’s hometown emergency room and urgent health care. If WAH leaves, the nearest hospital is 3.5 miles and several minutes more distant.
What should take the hospital’s place, both physically and beneficially? That’s what what the city wants to know, and that’s what WAHLUC was charged to find out.
Fear not, says WAH, urgent and other health care will still be provided in the “Wellness Village” to be set up on the hospital’s current campus. A January newsletter says “The Village’s healthcare offerings will include primary care services in collaboration with Mary’s Center, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services, and a behavioral health clinic.” It would include preventative care and would integrate traditional with alternative medical treatments.
But, WAHLUC says, the Wellness Village could turn out to be ” a proverbial Potemkin Village.” A Potemkin Village is a hollow or false construct.
The committee says the Wellness Village concept sounds great. It would be best alternative to keeping the hospital. But WAH, they say, is not revealing “detailed financial and operational plans about . . . the reuse of the existing site” which, the report says, the hospital must certainly have, but has not shared.
WAHLUC says they were “consistently disappointed and puzzled” by hospital management’s lack of attention to what will happen to the current hospital site and the people it serves.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary?
They are dubious of WAH’s plan to hand over the urgent care center to Mary’s Center. Mary’s Center’s role has been expanded since the Wellness Village was first proposed. At first Mary’s Center was to provide care to the uninsured while WAH ran the urgent care center. The committee notes that WAH has now shifted all urgent care to Mary’s Center.
The committee questions whether Mary’s Center is prepared to take on such a large part. In fact, Mary’s Center is something of an unknown. There has been no information forthcoming about the center’s budget, staffing, operating hours, medical plan or services offered. Nor has WAH introduced any Mary’s Center representatives to the council or committee, the committee notes. According to the committee’s independent research, the center relies on grant funding, an unstable revenue source.
The committee concludes that as good as the Wellness Village sounds, they suspect it won’t turn out that way, and WAH’s behavior so far does nothing to calm those suspicions. They cite the abrupt recent closure of the WAH pharmacy. The closure came with no advance warning, leaving pharmacy patrons with unfilled prescriptions and no transition plan to another pharmacy.
This 2009 incident, the report says, “provides some discomforting insight into WAH’s ability to handle transitions smoothly.”
The committee fears the Wellness Village is merely a placeholder, that the ultimate plan is to develop the valuable piece of land. They suspect the Village plan is a “tactic designed to address concerns expressed by the Takoma Park community” as well as Holy Cross Hospital.
The committee calls on WAH to clearly “commit the resources required to create a sustainable urgent care facility and present all of the required essential elements of a viable business and medical plan.”
Really Bad Idea
What the committee would like to see is for the WAH to bring the community in on the long term planning of the Wellness Village. They propose holding a competition for architectural concepts to come up with something flashy.
The council slobbered all over this idea. We suppose they and the committee are unaware of how insulting and exploitive competitions are for creative professionals.
Derek Leavitt, an architect with the California firm Modative, wrote in the firm’s blog that architecture competitions are a “complete waste of time.” He says they are also a waste of money, don’t generate enough publicity, and devalue architects. As Leavitt characterizes the attitude of contest sponsors, “Ooh look, we can get all these silly little architects to work for free.” He asks, “Have you ever seen doctors or lawyers sign up in droves to do free work?”
Of course maybe what the council really, really wants is to choose from a random bunch of self-selected architects who are desperate for work (so then how good are they?), and who will vie to come up with an unusual, startling design to catch the jury’s eye – regardless of how feasible it is to actually build, keep the rain off, and remain standing for 10 years.
And the process would be handled by the folks who thought the community center’s massive brick box with a fake mansard roof blended in perfectly with the city’s Victorian architecture. Uh huh.
Better to identify an architect whose work they (or better, consultants with taste and expertise) like and HIRE them to come up with a good design.
Ward 3 councilmember Dan Robinson announced that he will not run for a third council term next fall. Four years are enough, he feels, and he would like to have more time for other things. No, those other things do not include a run for the mayor’s office, he says.
Your Gilbert suggests that this would free Robinson up for a presidential campaign. We find it significant that following Robinson’s June 13 announcement, his fellow councilmember Terry Seamens announced that he would NOT be running in the presidential primaries. This clears the way for Robinson.
Another explanation for Robinson’s departure, just when he was getting into full stride, is that he secretly made a deal with the State Highway Administration – a high placed administrative position in exchange for Grant Avenue – Grant Avenue to become the eastbound lanes of Route 410.
So we’ll keep a watchful eye on him, Dear Readers. Meanwhile, we will miss Robinson’s presence on the council – he consistently spoke out (and voted) for environmentalism, reducing the budget and the tax rate, getting our fair county tax rebate, and “municipalitism” – encouraging un-incorporated communities to become municipalities.