Associated Press - June 3, 2005
The Whitman-Walker Clinic's board of directors approved a
sweeping austerity plan Tuesday, May 31, that calls for cutting
the clinic's budget by nearly $2.5 million, eliminating 62 staff
positions, and "spinning off" or closing its satellite offices in
the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
"The clinic will continue to the best of its ability to provide
services to as many clients as possible for as long as possible,"
said Interim Executive Director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, in a
statement released during a news briefing at the clinic's
headquarters building in Northwest D.C.
"However, given the magnitude of the financial challenges at the
clinic, it will be necessary to work with public and private
sources to find alternative facilities to treat some
Whitman-Walker clients," she said.
Antoniotti's appearance at the news briefing came hours after
clinic officials issued layoff notices to 50 staff members whose
positions were among the 62 being eliminated. The remaining 12
positions to be eliminated are currently vacant, Antoniotti said.
Tuesday's announcement of the cutbacks also came two weeks after
Antoniotti stunned the clinic's 270-member staff by informing
them that a shortage of funds forced the clinic to withhold half
of its employee's paychecks for at least one pay period.
The development marked the first time Whitman-Walker has missed a
payroll since its founding in 1973 as a gay community health
'Confluence of factors'
Antoniotti said the emergency cuts were made necessary by a
"confluence of factors," including the loss or poor returns from
key fund-raising events such as the AIDS Ride and AIDS Walk. The
two events once pulled in more than $1 million each on an annual
basis before the AIDS Ride was discontinued and the AIDS Walk
yielded much lower returns due to fewer participants.
A sluggish economy since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and
the Bush administration's decision to flat-fund federal AIDS
funding for patient services under the Ryan White CARE Act also
contributed to a reduction in revenue, Antoniotti said.
She said the funding crisis came to a head earlier this year when
the D.C. government delayed paying the clinic millions of dollars
in reimbursable funds for services to the city for a much longer
period than normal.
Clinic officials also disclosed last month that an apparent
bookkeeping error caused the clinic to overcharge the D.C.
government as much as $2 million in fees for laboratory tests
over a period of about five years. The over-billing prompted the
clinic to stop charging the city for its lab testing during the
past several months as clinic and city officials scrambled to
determine how much the clinic owes the city for the over-billing.
This further aggravated the clinic's funding shortage and
contributed to the clinic's inability last month to meet its
payroll, clinic officials said.
Graham seeks emergency funds
Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who served as the
clinic's executive director before his election to the Council,
said he was close to securing "a very significant" amount of
emergency funds for the clinic from government and private
sources. Graham declined to identify the funding sources, saying
he could not disclose details until an agreement was reached with
those providing the funds.
"The clinic clearly needs to address its efficiency needs,"
Graham said. "But I'm hopeful that we can help it meet its
financial needs. If we did not have a Whitman-Walker Clinic, we
would have to invent it."
The board's decision to discontinue the clinic's operation of its
facilities in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland startled
officials in the local government jurisdictions there, said Jay
Fisette, the gay chair of the Arlington County, Va., board.
Fisette, who headed the Whitman-Walker Northern Virginia office
for seven years before his election to the Arlington Board, said
the sudden closing of the office there could lead to a cutoff of
services to the clinic's clients if a shutdown takes place before
Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria officials can set up alternate
"The major element of the plan is spinning off or - if that
cannot be accomplished quickly - closing the Whitman-Walker
satellites in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland,"
Antoniotti said at Tuesday's news briefing. "Senior management
has been exploring the possibility of immediately transferring
these sites to other community-based organizations or health care
providers," she said.
She said the clinic would save $920,000 a year by ending its role
in operating the two suburban facilities. The two facilities each
serve about 300 clients, she said.
"They will have to give us time to make a smooth transition,"
Fissette said. "This can't be done in a week. We need at least
three or four months."
In addition to discontinuing the clinic's two suburban
facilities, the board announced the elimination of the following
additional clinic programs:
The clinic's $60,000 a year share in funding of Prevention
Works, D.C.'s private needle exchange program to help curtail HIV
among injection drug users.
The clinic's food bank, with the aim of transferring its
clients to other city food banks, creating an annual savings of
The MH Bridge Back program for substance abuse treatment
and housing, at an annual savings of $169,000. Clients would be
transferred to other clinic programs as well as programs run by
The Hank Card Foundation, a $50,000 a year program
providing memorial gifts and bequests for emergency burial
assistance for clients. Ryan White funds may be available to
assist in burial needs.
The Lambda Center, a $12,000 a year program providing
mental health services.
Two other housing programs for clients with HIV and
substance abuse problems.
At least 15 other programs will receive substantial budget cuts,
according to Andriotti's announcement this week, including the
Gay Men's Health & Lesbian Health Center, the GNET Program for
HIV prevention aimed at gay men, and dental assistance services
offered at the clinic's Elizabeth Taylor and Max Robinson
"It was the judgment of the board of directors that this
restructuring plan will enable Whitman-Walker to regroup, improve
its cash position and continue to provide much-needed services to
our clients," Antoniotti said. "The board and staff have made
some difficult choices and are reducing services and staff with