News & Politics

Hospitals 2005: Washington Hospital Center

WHC is DC's biggest hospital--it has more than 900 beds--and the area's dominant cardiovascular institution.

At a time when the number of coronary bypass surgeries is dropping nationally because of successes with nonsurgical interventions, the WHC cardiovascular surgical team still performs more than 2,100 open-heart surgeries a year. The hospital also has a cardiac team on site around the clock and performs more than 19,000 cardiac catheterizations a year–including angioplasties and angiographies. This is more than any other US hospital and more than all the other District hospitals combined. In our physician survey, WHC gathered more votes than any area hospital in any category when doctors chose where they'd want to go in the event of a heart attack.

It also enjoys national recognition for its cardiovascular program. U.S. News this year ranked WHC 17th for heart and heart surgery, and Solucient, one of the more statistically rigorous of the hospital raters, named it one of 2004's top 100 cardiovascular hospitals. Solucient named WHC one of its 100 top "performance improvement leaders" in the country.

Besides cardiovascular medicine, WHC is considered strong in pulmonary medicine, dermatology, endocrinology, and urology, and it has the strongest trauma and burn centers in the region. It also has a major deep-brain-stimulation program for the treatment of Parkinson's and other movement disorders and is collaborating with NIH on stroke research and the use of MRI technologies. It is the only area hospital to have purchased the very-high-resolution 3Tesla MRI. WHC's residency programs have expanded over the years in numbers and breadth. At any one time, WHC has more than 250 residents from Georgetown, GW, the University of Virginia, Howard, Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and other academic institutions who take part in 31 training programs.

One attribute WHC has never had is location. It is situated on a large campus with the National Rehabilitation Hospital, a short distance from Children's Hospital. It's a fair distance from DC's downtown business area, putting it, in the words of one doctor who has privileges there, "a little bit out of the loop."

This has not prevented it from becoming the most financially sound of the District hospitals or emerging as one of the region's leading hospitals. WHC is now planning an overhaul and expansion that could cost as much as $1 billion and may include a new emergency room, cancer institute, and heart center.