District of Columbia administrators have agreed to fund beleaguered AIDS clinic Whitman-Walker with $2.2 million from the city health department budget, saving patients from sweeping service cuts. The funding commitment came as D.C. councilman David Catania prepared to introduce an emergency proposal legislating the funds transfer. Catania said he withdrew the proposal after securing a commitment to offer the grant from city administrator Robert C. Bobb on behalf of Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
"I needed a firm commitment that there would be no reduction in services for district residents," said Catania.
Williams agreed to disburse the funds by July 1, days earlier than he originally said he might, Catania said. The earlier disbursement will keep the clinic from having to suspend service for several days.
Officials at the clinic, which has undergone major layoffs, recently disclosed that they didn't have enough money to pay some staff members in May. The facility is still reeling from a scandal that put it millions of dollars in debt to government agencies it overbilled for laboratory work.
Another district councilman, Jim Graham, who once served as Whitman-Walker Clinic's director, said he was grateful for the funding but fears that it will be treated as a stopgap measure. He said officials in the city and nearby suburbs--where the clinic has discussed discontinuing services--need to sit down with insurers and philanthropic agencies to shape a sustainable budget. "You have to be strategic in how this money gets spent," he said. "Otherwise, they're going to be back on our doorstep in no time." (AP)