Some local politicians and residents are questioning why Premier Health plans to tear down the recently closed Good Samaritan Hospital instead of redeveloping or downsizing the historic campus.
The hospital officially closed Monday and its campus at Philadelphia Drive and Salem Avenue will be torn down with the exception of a parking garage and Five Rivers Health Centers, which is a separate nonprofit health center on site.
The cleared site will then be redeveloped, though there’s no specific plan yet as to what. Premier Health has not yet announced a timeline for the demolition but will have to get permitting approval and has said it will be a long term process.
Since the closing announcement was made, some have questioned why the historic campus — built out since it opened in 1932 — must be razed instead of downsized or adapted for another use.
A civil rights complaint by a group of black clergy prompted the federal government to investigate whether the closure violates the civil rights of women and black residents served by the hospital.
While the clergy want the hospital to remain open, they state in a list of demands that if the hospital closes, Premier should do more to mitigate the impact like continuing to operate certain critical health services and giving more than the $10 million Premier has so far pledged toward the site’s redevelopment.
Craig Self, Premier chief strategy officer, said Premier had worked with an engineering firm and planning consultants to do an analysis on adaptive reuse of hospital sites and of hospitals.
But parts of the hospital are no longer compliant with current health care regulations, with some facility features grandfathered in. The hospital also was built with some dated design features like seven foot gaps in between floors, which were intended to make the building modular but also leave it inefficient.
And while there are separate buildings, including some newer facilities, the campus is “puzzle pieced together” with central power plant and utilities that runs through the campus, so it would be difficult to separate and leave some standing, according to Self.
“It would really be cost prohibitive for any adaptive reuse, either from an ambulatory use on the health care side or from whether you wanted to use commercial or retail,” Self said.
Several community groups and local politicians have called for Premier to not start dismantling the hospital buildings until the investigation is concluded.
Miami Valley Urban League said in a statement this week that in light of the federal investigation, Premier should not dismantle the hospital until the investigation is over.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also called on Premier to commit to not start demolition until the investigation is concluded, and later added that other health organizations might be interested in serving residents from those buildings if they are left intact.
“If Premier makes this commitment it will show that it is acting in good faith in assessing all community needs, including health care,” she had said.
Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said Premier should be looking at ways to save parts of the campus and there are examples of closed hospitals that have been brought back to life and rehabbed for other uses.
“I think it’s important to advocate for trying to figure out how we can repurpose some of the buildings on that campus for the community instead of bringing the wrecking,” he said.
Scott Keller, president and CEO of Dynamis Advisors Inc, leads a firm with a long history of helping communities and hospitals adapt plans to reuse closed hospitals.
Keller said every situation is different and some hospitals properties are suited for adaptive reuse and others are not. The first questions to ask, however, aren’t about the specifics of a vacant building.
“The primary question should be what are the needs, not just in health care, but in a broader sense of the community? And are there entities willing to fill that need? And once that question, then you can look at the real estate,” Keller said.
Hospitals in upheaval
Premier is closing the hospital at a time when the medical world is in upheaval and the relevancy of large central hospitals is diminishing.
Medicaid and Medicare are looking for ways to hold the line on hospital payments. The length of the average hospital stay is getting shorter and some common surgeries like total hip replacements can now be done as outpatient procedures.
Insurance companies and patients are pushing for more options to be treated at home with the help of home health aids. There’s demand that health networks find ways to lower hospital bills that are inflated by overhead, which comes with each hospital’s upkeep and administration.
Premier officials are not sure whether the hospital will try to sell the land to a new owner or hang on to the site and lease it to a future developer.
But if the land is sold, Premier plans to put restrictions on the property deed so that future users could not build a facility with inpatient beds on the property.
“Deed restrictions” are rules attached to the sale of the property and can remain for years, blocking certain uses. They are a standard business tactic in many industries and in affect prevent competitors from opening on the same site.
Self said Premier’s reasons for deed conditions would be to prevent more excess inpatient beds coming into Dayton.
Example of St. Elizabeth’s closing
Down the road, the building formerly home to Franciscan Medical Center — often called by its original name, St. Elizabeth Hospital — stands as example of what happens when a Dayton hospital is vacated and left standing.
The hospital on Dayton’s west side closed in 2000. The real estate, called Elizabeth Place, has been bought and sold several times and has been backfilled by tenants like St. Elizabeth Urgent Care, Medical Center at Elizabeth Place and various other medical practices.
Medical Center at Elizabeth Place, a small physician-led hospital, filed an anti-trust lawsuit in 2012 against Premier Health.
The medical center alleged that after it opened, Premier’s used its market power as a large health network to pressure certain insurers from contracting with the smaller hospital and by doing so Premier was illegally driving competition out of the market. Premier has denied the allegations.
The court case was revived two years ago and remains active.
Self said that Elizabeth Place is a different situation than Good Samaritan.
“We did try to look at ‘are there community health care organizations that could use space?’ and frankly St. E’s already served that for our community,” Self said.
Premier has brought in a planning firm, Planning NEXT, to work on an outline for future development of the site. Planning NEXT is also working with CityWide Development, private corporation that can help Dayton projects get financing or incentives.
Planners will share their strategic plan concepts for the Good Samaritan Hospital site and surrounding neighborhoods in August.
The northwest Dayton hospital campus officially closed Monday. The former hospital’s parent company Premier Health is planning to tear down the buildings and has brought in planning firm Planning NEXT to create a strategic plan for the site.
Planning NEXT held several workshops in March and has been meeting with community groups. At the upcoming options workshop, the firm will report back on its findings and attendees can give input on the early concepts.
The meeting will be 6 to 8 p.m. at Fairview Pre-K–6th School.