Lakewood Hospital Faces Big Changes

It's the end of an era at Lakewood Hospital.

The Cleveland Clinic and Lakewood have signed a letter of intent to turn the historic hospital into a family health center with a 24-hour emergency department.

“For the past 18 years the Cleveland Clinic has proudly served the residents of Lakewood, we are thrilled with this relationship will continue and the needs of the community will be met in a more appropriate 21-st century way,” says Cleveland Clinic Chief Executive Dr. Toby Cosgrove.

The Clinic has a 30-year lease with the city of Lakewood and its hospital board to operate the facility. If the proposed deal is approved, that lease will cease to exist.

In its place, the Clinic has signed a letter of intent with a variety of changes that lend the facility to becoming a strong outpatient presence.

The Clinic has agreed to relocate its family medicine residency and Center for Family Medicine program from Fairview to Lakewood. At the same time, services such as OBGYN , skilled nursing and inpatient beds at Lakewood will be transferred to Fairview Hospital a few miles away and Avon Hospital, which is expected to open in September 2016.

Other services expected to be offered at the new health center include radiology, primary care and specialty programs like diabetes, geriatric and cardiac care.

“As a health care provider it is our duty to make sure we react and evolve in ways that benefit our communities and most importantly improve the health or our current and future patient,” Cosgrove says, adding that the health care landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years from an inpatient model to an outpatient model. In 2013, 94 percent of visits to Lakewood hospital were for outpatient reasons.

In addition, the Clinic has agreed to invest about $120 million in the transition of Lakewood Hospital. About $34 million will be spent on the new facility, $32 million for a new health and wellness community foundation and $45 million will pay for demolition of the old building. In addition, the Clinic will spend about $8 million to purchase a medical office building owned by the Lakewood Hospital association in Westlake.

Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers says the conversation to change the Clinic’s lease began in earnest in 2012. Lakewood Hospital has been under-utilized in recent years, with about half of the inpatient beds remaining empty. The Clinic says it has lost patients and money at the facility since 2005.

“You get to a certain point where it just collapses. It’s like you’re weak, weak, weak. The volume has gone from 12,000 admissions a year down to about 8,000 and you know at some point you can’t run a hospital,” Summers says.

He said if action wasn’t taken, Summers says the hospital would have closed within four or five years.

During the press conference, Cosgrove said it was the Clinic’s intent to keep Lakewood Hospital operating until the system’s new Avon hospital opened next year. By then, the health center will be open on the site and the old hospital will then be torn down.

About 1,000 employees work at the hospital now. Clinic Spokeswoman Eileen Sheil says there are currently 1,700 open positions within the health system that the Lakewood employees will be encouraged to consider. Once the 62,000 square foot health center opens, it is expected to employ up to several hundreds.

As a result of the job losses and the loss of the rental agreement, the city of Lakewood will lose about $1.5 million payroll tax and rental revenues annually.
Lakewood Mayor Summers says economic development efforts are underway.

“This is a community that is used to understanding transformational investments,” Summers says. “We certainly have and worked through the closing of historically great schools here, we mourn them, we celebrate them, we enjoy them and we move on to the next generation or second generation. So, I think it’s appropriate for this community to understand how we need to create that process. They will demand it.”

Retired Lakewood Hospital Nurse Ruth Higgins came to the press conference because she was upset.

“I think the citizens of Lakewood deserve better,” Higgins says. “I think we deserve a hospital.”

Lakewood City Council must approve the deal. That is expected to take months and several community meetings are planned.

The first community meeting is scheduled for January 28 at the Beck Center.

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