For months, a group of Premier Health executives contemplated closing Good Samaritan Hospital and the night before the announcement the health system’s board of trustees made the final decision to close the 85-year-old hospital.
A day after the announcement that left many shocked in the community, Premier Health leaders on Thursday reiterated the reasons behind their tough decision and the importance of working with the community when the hospital closes later this year.
Mary Garman, chief operating officer at Good Samaritan, told this media outlet executives had been looking for months at options, including other options besides closing the hospital.
“As the changing dynamics of health care come around, we have to respond to those changes,” Garman said.
The changes at Good Samaritan won’t all come at once, but by the end of the year 1,600 employees will be shifted off site and the Dayton hospital’s main campus will have ceased operations.
Community input will be sought for what comes next for the Good Samaritan Hospital land after most of the hospital buildings are torn down.
Premier Health just launched a three-year strategic plan that includes closing the hospital by the end of 2018.
There’s not a set plan yet for what will happen at the location but the campus will be turned into a shovel ready site, with the main campus buildings razed with the exception of the Five Rivers Health Center and the parking garage.
Premier plans to make a $10 million donation in seed money for the property’s redevelopment.
There’s not a timetable yet for tearing down the main campus, but work won’t happen until hospital operations have ended.
While planning for the future of the site, the hospital network plans to hold meetings with community leaders, focus groups, community events, surveys and workshops to get community input over the next few months.
Premier is working on making a plan for the future of the site with CityWide Development and Planning NEXT, a design firm based in Columbus also working on the fairgrounds redevelopment.
“Unlike other Dayton-based employers, who closed and walked away from Dayton, Premier Health will be working with others to explore the possibilities for redevelopment of the site,” a spokesman said.
Premier’s plan to close Good Samaritan is not the first blow to the surrounding primarily black and low-to-moderate income neighborhoods. The Dayton Daily News previously reported that home values have not recovered in the surrounding neighborhoods. Kroger left, widening the food desert. And Dayton Public Schools is contemplating closing several schools on the west side.
The land will be marketed in an neighborhood where several large lots are already for lease or sale and nearby shopping areas such as the Northwest Shopping Plaza and the former Miracle Lane shopping center both lost many tenants over the past decades.
When asked about the pattern of disinvestment in west and north Dayton, Premier CEO Mary Boosalis noted that Miami Valley Hospital, which is five miles away, already draws about a third of its visitors from the area around Good Samaritan.
She also said the Five Rivers Health Center that will remain at the site is a busy center that will keep services like primary care in the neighborhood.
The population in Dayton has been dropping and half the beds at Good Samaritan are typically empty, so Premier officials say they are responding to changes in the landscape.
One of the programs that has helped the neighborhood is the Phoenix project, which Good Samaritan was a lead partner on and helped leverage more than $125 million in investments around the hospital since 2004.
Premier said the Phoenix Project is an example of neighborhood partnerships that “will not only continue, but are expected to expand.”
Good Samaritan Hospital closing: Former nurse recalls ‘small, friendly place’
What’s next for employees
Ben Sutherly, Premier Health spokesman, said the health network’s goal is to directly reach out to workers to offer other job opportunities within the larger health network, which is the region’s largest private employer with about 13,500 employees.
Premier intends to offer specific job offers and after receiving the job offer, employees will have the opportunity to speak with hiring managers, recruiters, benefits staff and other HR officials.
The last time that a hospital in Dayton closed it was St. Elizabeth’s, which closed in 2000. Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said when St. Elizabeth’s closed that within six months that around 97 percent of the laid off staff were employed again and most were in the Dayton region.
“There’s demand in the sector for health care employees,” Bucklew said.
The health care industry now has about an $8.1 billion impact and Bucklew said even with the closing of Good Samaritan he expects that number to stay the same or grow as more people use medical services in the region.
There will still be health services at the site since the Five Rivers Health Center, which Premier financially supports, is staying.
The federally qualified health center was built two years ago with 34 exam rooms, two procedure rooms and a 60-seat conference center.
It is about a block away from the main hospital in the west end of the hospital’s Hepburn parking lot.
The health center has about 30 residents and teaching physicians and is home to services like primary care, management of chronic diseases, behavioral health, women’s health, low risk obstetrical care and is a CenteringPregnancy site, which is a prenatal care and support group program that improves birth outcomes.
The hospitals’ roots stem back to the Sisters of Charity with the Catholic church, who partnered with the city to start to build the hospital in 1928 and open it in 1932.
Premier Health and Catholic Health Initiatives first formed a partnership 25 years ago that was an operating and revenue sharing agreement.
The hospital’s affiliation with the Denver-based Catholic health network however was restructured in recent years so that Catholic Health Initiatives still sponsors the Catholic mission of the hospital, but Premier had the sole authority to make the decision to close the hospital.
“They were committed to putting a hospital here and making these services available,” she said.
Garman said the Sisters of Charity were key stakeholders they had discussions as they looked at what impact their decision would have.
She what services are available and how health care is practiced differently than in past years. The Good Samaritan campus is aging and expensive to maintain, and there’s new health care technology that can let patients skip coming to a hospital or even coming to any medical facility.
“And so that’s when it became even more and more apparent we had to make some pretty big changes,” Garman said.
The Dayton Daily News broke the news on Wednesday that Premier Health will close Good Samaritan Hospital this year. Count on this newspaper to continue our in-depth reporting on the issue.