Registered Nurses Decry Court’s Decision to Refuse to Grant TRO to Keep Providence Hospital Open to Provide Critical Care to Residents of Washington, D.C.
Registered nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United are deeply disappointed by the District of Columbia Superior Court’s decision to deny an emergency temporary restraining order prohibiting Ascension from unlawfully closing Providence Hospital, or cutting services that are critical to the health and well-being of the people of Washington, D.C.
“We had hoped the court would see the merits of this case and act today to stop Ascension from eliminating and cutting services at Providence Hospital that are critical to the health and well-being of the residents of D.C.,” said Elissa Curry, a registered nurse at Providence Hospital. “We will continue to fight to keep this hospital open for the people of east D.C.”
Nurses strongly believe the court’s decision will make health care disparity in the nation’s capital worse, particularly for the elderly, the poor, and communities of color. Providence nurses have worked for months with labor and faith community advocates, as well as civic leaders, to stop the closure of the hospital.
The District of Columbia was requesting the emergency temporary restraining order as part of a lawsuit it filed against Ascension, the St. Louis, Mo. based multibillion-dollar nonprofit that owns and operates Providence Hospital. The lawsuit charges that Ascension violated D.C. law by closing and reducing hospital services without first obtaining approval of a hospital closure plan from the State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA.)
According to the lawsuit, “Providence, by reducing staff, limiting the patients it is willing to accept, and reducing, if not altogether eliminating, services, including acute care services, is failing to comply” with D.C. law “which require[s] that it ‘maintain a sufficient number of staff with the qualifications, training and skills necessary to meet patient needs.’”
In the request for a temporary restraining order, attorneys for the District of Columbia charged that Ascension’s “actions to close Providence without SHPDA approval will harm District residents.”
According to court documents, Dr. LaQuanda Nesbitt, the director of the District of Columbia Department of Health (DOH), said DOH renewed Providence Hospital’s license on Dec. 7 with the understanding that Ascension would “operate a fully-functioning hospital.” However, on Dec. 8, DOH received a copy of a press release from Ascension indicating it would only continue to operate an emergency department. Nesbitt notes that the district does not issue licenses for freestanding emergency departments and that, furthermore, the reduction in staff and acute-care services by Ascension has made it so EMS providers are not bringing patients to Providence, even when it is the closest hospital.
“These court documents show clearly this has been a game of smoke and mirrors by Ascension, they are laying off doctors, nurses, caregivers, and closing beds. They are no longer operating what anyone would call a hospital and they are not serving the needs of our community,” said Curry. “We will continue to fight to see the restoration of services including a fully-functioning emergency room, staffing for an appropriate number of acute-care beds to serve the community, and the necessary support services to care for the hospital’s patients.”