Testimony of Father Patrick A. Smith to keep Providence Hospital open

The following testimony was given to the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health Public Oversight Hearing by Father Patrick A. Smith, Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church on November 2nd, 2018


Thank you, Chairman Gray and members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify in support of keeping Providence Hospital open.

My name is Fr. Patrick Smith. I am the Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church at 14th & V in Ward 1. I am here today not as an official or unofficial representative of the Catholic Archdiocese Washington but as third generation native Washingtonian from Ward 8 where I grew up. I have been a priest in this Archdiocese for more than 28 years. My ministry has almost exclusively been in the African American community.

I am here today because I am deeply concerned that children and families in our community that I have dedicated my life to serve will be put at risk if Providence Hospital closes. I am here because I know and you know that here in the District of Columbia, that all too often people of limited means, those living on the margins of the nation’s capital, cannot get the health care they need. I am hear because I believe that the closure of Providence Hospital will only make the health care needs of the most vulnerable population in our city LESS accessible to them. As was the case when the labor and delivery unit at Providence Hospital was shut down a year ago – a unit serving a population with a shockingly high infant mortality rate – especially among African American women (14.6 deaths per 1000 live births in Ward 8) – closed a year ago just two months before the highly promoted and largely Catholic sponsored Annual March and Rally for Life was held in this city. I am here because I am afraid that people may get the impression that when we Catholics say “Pro-Life” that we are NOT including black and brown babies and mothers or lower income families in our definition of life worth defending, protecting, serving and saving. I am here because I am afraid that when Ascension Health Care promotes and prides itself in being called Catholic plans to close the Emergency Care Center they named after Pope Francis; that the gesture will be perceived as a meaningless PR stunt that has no real affinity to the actual Pope who said “Health care is not a consumer good, but a human right, and access to health care cannot be a privilege.” I am afraid that when WE as Catholics repeat the truth that “The Lord hears the cry or the poor” (Psalm 34) that that truth may fall on deaf ears if we close one of the only two hospitals on the east side of the District knowing that all but one of the seven other hospitals are concentrated in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the city.

I am here today because Jesus said that what we do to the least among us, we do to him; because he said I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you offered me no welcome…I was poor and you gave me no assistance; I as sick you offered me no healthcare; I was in need of medical attention and you closed down the hospital that provided the best opportunity for me to be cared for. I am here because Jesus said that I, we, Ascension Health, ALL of us, will all be judged by how we treated – and whether we provided treatment – to the least of our brothers and sisters among us.

I am here because Providence Hospital is vital to the health of residents of the eastern half of this city. Finally, in the words of Edmund Burke: “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

I want to thank Chairman Gray and the Members of this Council for refusing to be counted among those who “did nothing” by voting unanimously last month to take an important step to keep Providence Hospital open as a fully functioning hospital with acute-care services. Thank you for standing up for our shared values and working to ensure health care for all residents of the District. I want to call on the Department of Health and our Mayor to do so as well.

Let us continue to work together to ensure that Ascension Health upholds its stated mission of service and compassion for those most in need by keeping Providence Hospital open and providing acute-care services.

Our children and families deserve no less.
Thank you.

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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