The D.C. city government broke ground on Ward 8’s newest hospital, Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center, which will service the historically underserved, majority-Black populations in Wards 7 and 8.
After years of development,Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White Sr. attended a ceremony to break ground on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus location for the new hospital.
Neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, demarcated by historical redlining practices, have been plagued by disparities in access to medical care, a reflection of the larger socioeconomic inequalities that continue to shape the divides between the more affluent, whiter neighborhoods in the Northwest and the lower-income, majority-Black neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8.
“Health equity and access to care are fundamental human rights. Residents must have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them,” White wrote in an email.
Six of the District’s seven acute medical care hospitals, including Medstar Georgetown, are located in the Northwest, while only one serves Ward 7 and 8 residents, despite similar population sizes. The life expectancy for Ward 8 is nearly 15 years less than in Ward 3, and community members in Wards 7 and 8 have some of the highest rates of chronic illness in the District. The 2017 Community Health Assessment Survey estimated that nearly 210,000 low-income residents do not have access to sufficient medical services.
Currently, Ward 8’s only hospital—United Medical Center (UMC)—has faced several critical problems, including days-long waits to be seen and issues with contaminated blood samples; UMC had six times the federally recommended rate of contaminated blood samples.
The medical center also shut down its maternity ward in 2017 after several reports that patients were experiencing mistreatment. Its final days coincided with the closure of Providence Hospital Ward, resulting in a maternity care desert for Southeast communities in the last five years. The disparity in medical care most severely impacted low-income women.
Community clinics have acted as an essential source of primary care for residents in wards without sufficient medical access. The lack of specialty services, however, can force residents to take time off to travel to different parts of the city, which can increase the cost and delay necessary medical care.
The new hospital, named after Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia residence, will contain obstetrics, neonatal, pediatric emergency, as well as a Level 3 trauma center—making it the only trauma center in the immediate area.
“The new full-service hospital east of the Anacostia brings us a step closer to providing equitable health care access to all Washingtonians, especially residents in Wards 7 & 8,” White wrote.