to The District of Columbia City Council Committee on Business and Economic Development and Committee on Health

RE: B23-0777 and B23-778

June 30, 2020


Will This Third Time Be the Charm?

50 years from now some astute historian might look back and wonder what kind of people would have approved the current Universal Health Systems (UHS) contract that (1) explicitly excluded Howard University faculty and students, (2) bared battle proven unionized black nurses and workers, and (3) backhanded the will of culturally knowledgeable activists in the community while approving a hospital with 2nd tier services in the midst of the historic Covid-19 pandemic? No one would believe that our fate was actually in our own hands only to have been given away to a reportedly corrupt and obviously racist company by a black mayor, black deputy mayor for health, black director of the department of health, and black council health chair.

Retrospectively in 2070, how could one imagine and justify after all that this community and country had been through in 2020 with the pending ouster and imprisonment of Donald J. Trump to have subjugated jobs, education, and self-sufficiency to such a subservient mentality… that WE WERE, IN FACT, INCAPABLE of TAKING CARE of OUR OWN?!

What we don’t need today is more hand-me-downs in the neighborhood (take it or forget it hospital) and a ticket Uptown if you get really sick (to the full-service White hospital). Your vote on the UHS contract should be a watershed for November 2020 and for years to come, as an acknowledgment that we have SURVIVED and SUCCEEDED IN SPITE of ADVERSITY, and NOT as a concession forever that WE ARE NOT CAPABLE of SELF-SUFFICIENCY and WORTHY of R-E-S-P-E-C-T! If Howard University proposed building a hospital in Foggy Bottom only if George Washington University is EXCLUDED, it would be considered PUBLIC HEALTH HERESY! Likewise, such a proposal, I doubt, would ever have been allowed in Atlanta by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms nor would Morehouse cower and accept such disrespect.

This contract is simply a continuation of the DC Government’s self-admitted decades-long inability to provide sound public health policy and services to its most needy and vulnerable constituents. Study after study points to the need for TRUST in communities of color and the role that cultural competency plays in positive health outcomes. Yet this government repeatedly rejects the science and consistently contracts with Trump-like corporate outsiders expecting a different result. For example, the city hosts national conferences on infant and maternal mortality while refusing to (1) discuss tort reform and (2) pay for high-quality community access to prenatal care and labor and delivery in the highest need communities on the Eastside. (3) Our officials give lip service to unconscionable cancer death rates and the need for better screenings and treatment while undercutting access to such services East of the Anacostia River.

DC’s health inequities are further compounded by the “social determinants of health” and this government’s unabated gentrification push, Black intra-classism, and the “brain-draining” exodus of Black physicians which now rivals both (1) the Black COVID and opioid death rates (80%) and (2) the rate of displacement of disenfranchised Black residents out of the city.

All of the above has exacerbated base-line anxiety and depression (PTSD or PTSS) and is directly related to increased self-medication with drugs/alcohol as well as reactive domestic and community violence. As for public policy, the mayor’s LIVE.LONG.DC proposed to cut opioid overdose deaths by 50% in 2020 however may be on track to DOUBLE, rather than decrease deaths at its current COVID augmented pace. DC’s rapid Gentrification and passive-aggressive approach to our often mentally challenged homeless population are likewise showing up with a statistically significant increase in deaths, even before COVID.

Paradoxically, our local government consistently showboats for national audiences, like painting “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the street, then CUTS money to front-line lifesaving entities like “community interrupters” while proposing to increase by $45 million its “stop and frisk” police department who, by the way, found it beneath them to train, carry, and use Narcan for opioid resuscitation.

DC unequivocally needs a new full-service hospital in SE (should have been built yesterday) however, in my opinion, it should be run by the local Howard University Adventist Network. Anything less would be more of the repetitive, regressive economic paternalism, racism, and political hypocrisy, ironically, orchestrated this time by Black government officials who seemingly have lost not only historical focus but also ethical balance.

“Open up the door… I’ll get it myself!” JB

Edwin C. Chapman, MD

PS: The following brief historical recap may put things from a political perspective. Howard University has been at the table twice before with failed letters of intent for a hospital deal in 2006 (Anthony Williams- Patrick Swygert) and 2014 (Vincent Gray – Wayne Frederick). What assurances does Howard have that “The 3rd Time Will Be the Charm” in 2026? Why is this not just another DC Government bait and switch set up to temporarily appease Howard while UHS once again robs the community of its employment, educational, and financial wealth? History is heavily weighted against most if any of the current endorsers to still be around in 2026! (see attached). IS NOT THE CONTRAST BETWEEN B23-0777 and B23-0778 the PERSONIFICATION and DEFINITION of “INSTITUTIONAL RACISM? B23-0777 – A giveaway to White Supremacy vs. B23-0778 – A mule… without the 40 acres!.

Howard’s best shot is NOW! Denying Howard University, at this most critical juncture in our nation’s history is psychologically tantamount to burning the “Black Wall Street of Healthcare”: an opportunity for legal advocacy by the HU School of Law; innovations by the HU School of Social Work for family and community rebuilding; lessons by the HU School of Divinity on compassion and healing thru spiritual love; HU School of Business for entrepreneurship and wealth-building; HU Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Allied Heath for mental and physical self-determination, self-sufficiency, self-worth, and well-being.

Only Howard University has the full spectrum of trust, services, role models, and mentorship capabilities needed in SE DC at this critical time of “Black Lives Matter”: Only HOWARD CAN GUARANTEE EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, and WEALTH BUILDING for THE RESIDENTS WHO CURRENTLY LIVE THERE!