Good Samaritan Hospital for the past 90 years has been the site of countless births, deaths, surgeries, career starts, professional milestones and medical innovations.
On Thursday, the hospital will close its emergency room at noon and at 12:01 a.m. July 23, Good Sam will close for good.
The initial announcement in January on the hospital closing was met with shock, anger and heartbreak over the future loss of the institution that for so long has been an anchor in Dayton and played an important role in life moments of area residents.
The planned closure also raised concerns over what it will mean for the economy and access to health services for the 38,600 people — 75 percent of them African American — for whom Good Samaritan is the closest hospital.
Leaders at Premier Health, which owns the hospital, have said the difficult decision to close Good Samaritan was necessary after it became unsustainable to operate two hospitals five miles apart as both the Dayton population and the need for hospital admissions declines.
Premier, with $1.7 billion in revenue last year, is one of the largest companies in the region and operates Atrium Medical Center, Upper Valley Medical Center and Miami Valley Hospital, along with a network of satellite hospital locations and physician practices.
The doctors, nurses and other members of the Good Samaritan staff — some who have worked for decades at the hospital — have already started transitioning to new jobs throughout the health system and major medical services are shifting to other Premier sites.
Premier Health leaders had said during the initial closing announcement that they planned to offer other positions to all of the 1,600 employees who worked at the northwest Dayton hospital campus.
Barbara Johnson, Premier Health chief human resources officer, said as the closing date nears, the Dayton-based health network anticipates that everyone who sought to remain with Premier will be offered a job at another location.
Premier as of last week made about 1,400 job offers to Good Samaritan employees and about 1,200 people accept positions so far.
“It’s important, being the largest private employer in Dayton, that we were really able to make this commitment,” Johnson said. She said the health system is still recruiting for other positions on top of the positions filled by Premier employees.
Amid a shortage of nurses and physicians, competition for health care workers has intensified and other health care employers saw an opportunity to recruit in the wake of the closure announcement. Grandview Medical Center, operated down the road by competitor Kettering Health Network, reported it hired about 100 from Good Samaritan.
“We understood there were going to be all sorts of attempts to recruit our staff, not only locally but also regionally and nationally. And we knew it was going to be emotional for employees and some might self select out,” Johnson said.
One of the challenges to retention is morale. Johnson said Premier held town hall meetings right after the announcement so employees could get their questions answered, created a weekly (sometimes daily) newsletter and had management rounding to answer questions and manage the rumor mill.
“We made sure we eliminated any rumors that may have surfaced so employees got accurate, timely information,” Johnson said.
Johnson said they wanted employees to have options for the type of job they preferred and employees filled out preference sheets on their first, second and third choices on where they would like to be placed.
Transportation to hospitals
A civil rights complaint filed by a group of west Dayton clergy over the closure has listed concerns about transportation and how the closure will affect the surrounding population, which is both disproportionately low income and African American.
Johnson said Premier Health is giving financial help through its foundations to some employees who worked at Good Samaritan and are transferring jobs.
“Our foundations are offering up financial assistance to anyone who might have transportation needs for as long as the employees needs for their new work location,” she said.
Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority did outreach at Premier locations primarily for their employees since many of them walked or road the bus to Good Samaritan, said Jessica Olsen, RTA communications manager.
Premier’s other major locations like Miami Valley Hospital already have bus stops so she said their work in response to the hospital closing wasn’t about making new routes so much as it was about helping workers learn what stops and routes are available.
“We had three or four employee outreach programs directly on the Good Samaritan campus in order to make sure they are ready for the transfer,” Olsen said.
Loren Anthes, who researches Ohio Medicaid for Cleveland-based Centers for Community Solutions, said in the wake of Good Samaritan closing down, a larger health access issue at play is the state government’s effort to add work requirements for those covered by Medicaid expansion.
The federal government is still considering whether to grant permission for Ohio Medicaid to create the requirements. The state contends 95 percent would be exempt and even smaller percent would eventually lose coverage, though Anthes argues that number will likely be higher if the changes work like SNAP work requirements, which pushed a higher percent than expected off coverage.
In respect to the closing of Good Samaritan, Anthes noted that for those without easy transportation access, if they have Medicaid then their plan can cover transportation to their doctor or hospital.
But if new restrictions make it harder to maintain insurance coverage and at the same time jobs that could satisfy the new rules move out of easy travel distance, that could jeopardize health care access for some.
“Being uninsured is much more predictive of your ability to address your health care than whether or not there’s a large hospital within a couple miles,” Anthes said.
Ambulance routes will also have to change after the hospital closes, though several fire chiefs said they will learn more about what the change will specifically mean for run times after the hospital closes.
Trotwood Fire Chief Rick Rick Haacke said about 50 percent of the patients the department transports go to Good Samaritan and the other half go elsewhere.
“The one nice thing is we have Miami Valley North — Good Sam North — right in our backyard,” Haacke said, in reference to the Englewood satellite campus of the hospital that will transfer to Miami Valley’s license after Good Sam closes.
Haacke said his staff takes patients to the hospital they want to go to, so if they need a larger hospital they can go to Grandview or Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
He said Miami Valley is farther enough down the road from Good Samaritan where it could noticeably change their run times and the time it takes to get back in service, and they will learn more in the coming months about what specific difference it makes.
Harrison Twp. Administrator Kristofer McClintick also said that the township’s fire department is also evaluating what difference it will make routing transportation to other locations.
“We’ll assess that as the year goes on,” he said.
Emergency care access has been one of the key concerns of a group of clergy that filed a federal civil rights complaint over the closing of Good Samaritan.
With the closing a week away, the complaint has not been assigned a case worker yet by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On Friday, Rev. Rockney Carter of Zion Baptist Church, who is part of the group, said the clergy are meeting with their legal team to file a possible civil case seeking to fight the closure of Good Samaritan.
McClintick also sits on the advisory board for what happens next at the hospital site and surrounding area. Premier Health plans to tear down the hospital and turn it into a “shovel ready” site for redevelopment. The planning process, dubbed Phoenix Next, has been led by a planning firm called Planning Next. Premier has pledged $10 million toward its future redevelopment.
McClintick said the board is planning the next phase of what will happen and not just looking at the hospital site but at the surrounding neighborhoods. The next public meeting about the planning process will be in August.
Premier leaders have said the Good Samaritan closure was a difficult but necessary decision.
When the funds were being raised in 1928 to build Good Samaritan Hospital, there was a series of articles sounding the alarm about a critical shortage of hospital beds in the city. Now the demand for Dayton hospital beds has plummeted while population has shifted to the suburbs and medical advancements have let multi-day hospital stays become outpatient procedures.
As the population has shrank and opportunity dwindled, the remaining residents are primarily covered by Medicaid and Medicare, which reimburse hospitals less for services than private insurance.
Scott McGohan, CEO of McGohan Brabender, the largest local employee benefits firm, said he thinks the community should look at what economic factors contributed to the closing of Good Samaritan and find ways to support Grandview to proactively prevent it from also struggling for long-term viability.
“As we look at the population in our county and access to health care, my gut tells me that a lot of people who were using Good Sam are going to start using Grandview. Because of Mediciad reimbursement and Medicare reimbursement potentially we are going to roll those problems over,” he said.
Grandview Medical Center leaders said the hospital is here to stay and they are prepared to take on more patients as the neighboring hospital closes.
The hospital is in the final stages of a $25 million expansion of its ER and also adding more cardiology services and parking.
“We’ve seen a slight increase in charity care, but that’s our mission. That’s why we’re here,” said Becky Lewis, president of Grandview.