When Good Samaritan Hospital closed in July after an 85-year run, it joined about 30 hospitals that close annually in the United States.
With hospital stays getting shorter, outpatient care replacing inpatient procedures, doctor salaries rising, mega-insurers gaining leverage and populations shifting to suburbs, some hospitals have been pushed into the red. Morgan Stanley reported in August about 8 percent of U.S. hospitals were at risk of closing.
As the community gets a final chance this week to weigh in on the future vision for the 13-acre Good Sam property, the Dayton Daily News examined how three other health systems approached closing Ohio hospitals. Our investigation found the hospital closures left the Ohio communities dealing with large jobs loss, reduced health services and sometimes large, abandoned buildings with no clear path to reuse.
In Dayton, Premier Health said a high number of empty beds, the high cost of facility upkeep and its proximity to Miami Valley Hospital all played a role in the decision to close Good Sam this summer.
“Closing a hospital is a complex and difficult decision,” Premier Health said in a statement.
“Although it would not be appropriate for us to speculate about the specific factors that led to the closing of other hospitals, we did study recent examples as part of our search for best practices.”
The largest private employer in the region, Premier Health said about 1,400 job offers were made to Good Sam employees. Unlike other hospital closures the Dayton Daily News looked, every employee who applied to remain at Premier was given a job at another location in the system.
However, the Good Sam decision drew immediate criticism from leaders who felt blindsided by the sudden news and the loss was mourned by longtime employees who had built careers at the hospital. It prompted a pending civil rights complaint over the loss of the hospital in a majority black service area while Premier continues to invest and expand in whiter, wealthier suburbs.
The complaint examined by the Dayton Daily News details more than $120 million spent on 16 Premier Health expansion and construction projects over the last five years in parts of the region that are whiter and wealthier than northwest Dayton, where Good Samaritan had operated.
“In fact, Premier has no such medical facilities in the African American community. It has left that community a health care desert,” the complaint states.
Affinity Medical Center
When Affinity Medical Center closed in February in Massillon, near Canton, it meant the loss of a century-old hospital, which employed more than 800.
The hospital — the only one in the city — gave a month notice about the community closure and told the mayor the same day it notified employees, though it paid employees for 60 days after the layoff notice. The hospital owner cited declining revenue and the increased cost of hiring providers as reasons for the closure.
Another hospital in nearby Perry Twp. that Affinity Medical Center closed a decade ago remains deteriorating with boarded up windows and grass growing through the cracked pavement, said Joel Smith, Massillon safety-service director.
“That’s sitting there rotting 10, 12 years later, so we did not want that to happen,” Smith said. That’s why the city took control of the buildings and land from Affinity’s for-profit parent Quorum Health, based in Tennessee.
There had been a prospective buyer for the former Massillon hospital, but that deal fell through. Another health network, Aultman Hospital, is working on an agreement with Massillon to expand and replace some of the services that Affinity had provided. But, Smith said Aultman won’t be reusing the main campus building, which would be too expensive to bring back as a medical facility.
City officials are looking at all options for the 320,000 square feet of space, including demolition.
“To tear it down and prep the site for reutlization, that’s probably the best outcome you could hope for,” he said, when told about Premier’s plans to tear down Good Samaritan and give seed money toward redevelopment.
Northside Regional Medical Center
Northside Regional Medical Center in Youngstown was closed Sept. 20 by parent company Steward Health Care, a for-profit chain based in Dallas.
Steward said in a statement that it had seen a 71 percent decrease in patient visits over the last decade. The hospital was closed a year after Steward bought it, raising criticism that the company didn’t invest enough or try hard enough to turn the hospital around.
The hospital had 388 employees laid off, according to the notice filed with the state Aug. 15, the same day the layoffs were announced.
“We were blindsided,” said Laurie Hornberger, president of Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association. She said there was a job fair where some nurses found other work, but many are still out of work, especially older nurses. Others are making long commutes, such as Hornberger who now drives 50 minutes to work.
“That’s pretty good. That’s impressive. Here, not so much the case,” Hornberger said about the majority of Good Sam employees now working elsewhere with Premier.
The closure means Mahoney County is down to one maternity unit, at Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Boardman. It also reduced options for where to go for hospital services.
“People like to have choices of where to go and you don’t have a choice anymore,” Hornberger said.
Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville
When a small hospital closed in Nelsonville, a town of 5,400 in Athens County, different community organizations and residents worked together through a public process to re-purpose the building.
Parent company OhioHealth, based in Columbus, closed the hospital over two years ago after years of declining demand for inpatient services at the 15-bed hospital. OhioHealth built a new outpatient center and urgent care in the town, though county commissioners did not get their request for an emergencey department as part of the center.
OhioHealth made the project possible when it donated the property in 2017 to Integrated Services for Behavioral Health, said Kevin Gillespie, executive director of Integrated Services.
The former hospital will be called Mary Hill Health Center when the building has a grand opening June 1. Integrated Services and Hopewell Health Centers will be the largest tenants and co-owners.
Integrated Services also works in affordable housing, so the organization had development and real estate experience going into the Mary Hill project, he said.
Mary Hill will have a range of services, including mental health treatment for children, dental services, and a community garden. Gillespie said there has been strong local support for the project, which preserves a building with community importance, will create new jobs and will have markers honoring the hospital’s history.
“It’s been phenomenally good. We have not had anything but support from community,” he said.
Next step for Good Sam
Premier Health said it is “committed to preventing Good Sam from becoming an eyesore and wants to create a shovel-ready site that continues the redevelopment seen in the surrounding neighborhoods in Northwest Dayton.”
The hospital network plans to tear down the hospital buildings and said it would give $10 million as seed money toward a larger redevelopment of the site.