Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley has asked Premier Health to not start any demolition of Good Samaritan Hospital while a federal investigator examines whether the closure of the hospital is a civil rights violation.
Premier, which operates the northwest Dayton hospital, is planning to close the ER at noon on Thursday and the main campus at 12:01 a.m. July 23., shutting down the hospital about seven months after the plan was first announced.
The plan to close and demolish the 2222 Philadelphia Drive campus into a cleared site for redevelopment prompted a group of clergy to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying the loss of the hospital will violate the rights of black residents and women, removing key services like the ER and the maternity unit from the hospital’s majority-black service area.
MORE: Health centers plan for future after Good Samaritan Hospital closes
On Monday, the clergy and their legal team said the case was officially being investigated by the federal agency’s office of civil rights.
“In light of the now opened federal investigation regarding the closing of Good Samaritan Hospital, I call on Premier to commit to not demolish or disable the buildings on the campus until this investigation, all legal proceedings and the community planning process are complete,” Whaley said.
While the West Dayton clergy want to stop the imminent closure of the hospital, they are also asking that if the hospital does close, that health services remain on site either through scaled down Premier services or the buildings made available to other health care organizations.
Premier Health said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the hospital network “has been mindful of the community’s concerns from the very beginning of this process and has remained true to its mission throughout this transition.”
“From the beginning, patient safety has been our guiding principle for determining our timeline for the closing. While we will cooperate with any investigation, this week’s timeline remains unchanged,” Premier stated.
The eventual demolition of the hospital campus buildings will be a long term process that could take a year or more and is unrelated to the timeline for the hospital closure, Premier stated.
How a civil rights investigation works
A complaint is filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal department's Office of Civil Rights reviews whether it has the authority to investigate the complaint.
If it does have the legal authority to look into the complaint, an investigator is assigned, like one was assigned in the Good Samaritan case this week.
The investigator will gather information about the complaint.
The Office of Civil Rights will eventually issue a decision on whether or not civil rights have been violated. If rights have been violated, the provider being investigated — which in this case is the hospital — would come up with an action that corrects the violation.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
RELATED: Good Samaritan to close doors for last time
Premier leaders have said need for big hospitals is declining and it is no longer sustainable to operate two hospitals five miles apart in Dayton. Medical advancements have transformed overnight hospital stays into outpatient procedures, so while the hospital network is building, it hasn’t been adding to its overall bed count.
Premier leaders have also said the hospital is following the population, and building to serve the communities now needing more health care services for the rapidly growing number of residents.
While Dayton’s population has shrank, the southern suburbs and the middle area where the Dayton and Cincinnati metros meet have grown.
“So we’ve quietly taken down the beds at Miami Valley Hospital and Good Sam because that population is not growing, while there’s many good things happening in Dayton. There’s a lot of growth here. There’s a lot of growth in our southern market,” Premier CEO Mary Boosalis had said at an October ceremony for the expansion of Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville.
That population shifting out of the city of Dayton has also been overwhelmingly white.
From the 1960 census to 2010, Dayton’s population has dropped from 262,332 to 141,527.
While more than 130,000 white people left the city, the black population slightly increased. This led the percent of the city’s population that is black to increase from about 22 percent then to nearly 43 percent as of 2016, concentrated in the west and northwest neighborhoods.
The lawyers with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, representing the clergy, said the civil rights investigation has been expedited, though at this point doesn’t have specific timeline details. Rev. Rockney Carter, of Zion Baptist Church, who is among the clergy that filed the complaint, on Monday called the expedition of the investigation a “monumental victory.”
“It’s a wonderful day for the city of Dayton,” Carter said. “It’s a miraculous day for the city of Dayton.”
Good Samaritan timeline
Jan. 17: Premier Health announced Good Samaritan will close.
April 12: Last day of deliveries at hospital birthing center.
May 3: A group of clergy file a civil rights complaint about the hospital's closure.
July 16: The clergy announce the case has been assigned a federal investigator.
July 19: The ER will close at noon.
July 23: The hospital will close 12:01 a.m.