Local residents criticized Premier Health’s decision to close Good Samaritan Hospital at the first meeting between hospital leadership and the public since the announcement was made.
Members in attendance at a forum held Saturday morning by the NAACP at Zion Baptist Church said that before Premier decided to close Good Sam, the Dayton-based health network should have sought input from leaders in the primarily black neighborhoods that will be impacted when the hospital shuts down by the end of the year.
“Systemic racism begins not with business decisions but it begins with the lack of inclusion in business decisions,” said Rev. Renard Allen of St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church, who added that with prior input, there could have been another solution besides closing the hospital.
Premier Health officials, however, said even with more community input, the financial challenges the health system was up against would not have changed. The aging hospital campus would still be in a city with a declining population and almost twice as many hospital beds as it needs, back-dropped by a health care industry that’s nationally in upheaval.
“There are some realities of health care trends and the way in which health care administration is changing that are not things that you can impact,” Anita Moore, chair of Premier Health’s board of trustees, said. “They are not things that you can change. There’s nothing that you could have said that would have made us go in a different direction when it comes to those things.”
Premier Health first announced in January that it would shut down the 85-year-old hospital’s main campus and shift 1,600 jobs to other locations, such as five miles south to Miami Valley Hospital. The decision was made by a small group of Premier Health’s leadership and announced to the public the morning after the board of trustees made the final decision.
The health network plans to tear the main Philadelphia Drive campus down and turn it into a shovel-ready site for redevelopment, with plans to give $10 million in seed money toward its redevelopment. Five Rivers Health Center, a separately operated center on campus that serves residents regardless of ability to pay, will remain in operation at the site and the parking garage will remain, but everything else will be razed.
The public can weigh in on what the future of the site should be at two forums scheduled for 1 p.m. March 22 at Fairview United Methodist Church and 6 p.m. March 22 at Fairview Pre-K-6th School.
The Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward said at the meeting that the unit’s formal position is that Premier should not close the hospital.
Mary Boosalis, Premier Health CEO and president, said Saturday that the difficult decision took months of analysis and the health network’s leadership looked at different options, from leaving some services at the site to instead consolidating Miami Valley Hospital to Good Sam’s campus, but they kept coming back to the same conclusion. It didn’t make sense to have two hospitals so close together, and because of the size of Miami Valley Hospital, Boosalis said they couldn’t transfer its services over to the Good Sam campus.
City Commissioner Matt Joseph said it seems like the hospital was setting up the problem of empty beds in Dayton to happen. While the total number of local inpatient hospital beds is not increasing, Premier is adding inpatient beds at Good Samaritan North Health Center’s campus in Englewood and beds at Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville.
“If the problem is too many beds, then why are beds being built in Englewood or in Centerville?” said Joseph.
Boosalis said Premier Health is following the trends in health care, shifting to population centers and shifting to outpatient-focused health facilities.
The closing of Good Sam follows a pattern of businesses and jobs leaving northwest Dayton. Rosemary Peters Brown, a 50-year resident of northwest Dayton, said she has been following the early proposal for redeveloping the fairgrounds and hopes that northwest Dayton can have same opportunities at the Good Sam site. She said residents in the community have continued to lose options to shop and get services in their own community.
“We have to go south, east, wherever,” she said. “There is nothing.”