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D.C. official demands health department pay district AIDS organizations

D.C. official demands health department pay district AIDS organizations

The District of Columbia currently owes millions of dollars to area organizations that serve low-income HIV patients, and a D.C. council member has had enough of the reimbursement backlogs, The Washington Post reports. Councilman David Catania on Wednesday told the district's health department it had 48 hours to devise a "full and complete fix" of the problems leading to the backlog and a little more than one week to issue the reimbursements. Catania's move came just days after the district's Whitman-Walker Clinic, which provides HIV treatment services to about 7,000 low-income area residents, was unable to make its payroll for the first time since the clinic opened in 1974 because of a cash shortage. Whitman-Walker interim executive director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti said a series of budget problems, including the delayed reimbursements from the district's health department, has contributed to the financial crisis at the agency. The district's health department and the housing agency of Prince George's County, Md., currently owe the agency more than $700,000. The health department's delays in distributing reimbursements also has led D.C.'s Carl Vogel Center, which provides HIV case management services to about 700 HIV patients in the city, to cut services and lay off staff members, The Washington Times reports. The district health department owes that agency about $144,000. Carl Vogel officials are considering temporarily closing the center if the reimbursements are not received immediately. Officials from a dozen other AIDS groups in the region also say their services are threatened by delayed health department reimbursements. Catania told D.C. health commissioner Gregg Pane that he expects all of the backlogged reimbursements to be issued by May 27. "I understand that's a pretty short turnaround time, but it's long overdue," he told Pane, according to the Post. Catania also said he will take steps to withhold the salaries from top health department officials until the reimbursements are issued and that he may seek to have top D.C. HIV/AIDS administration officials fired if the problems aren't fixed.

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