Four leaders with Premier Health met with the public Saturday for the first time since the decision was made to close Good Samaritan Hospital by the end of the year.
The Dayton Unit NAACP and local church leaders hosted a forum where the Dayton chapter of the civil rights organization asked Premier to reconsider shutting down the hospital, which operates in northwest Dayton surrounded by mostly black neighborhoods.
About 120 residents turned out for the two-hour meeting. Here are three key takeaways from the event:
1. Some attendees said community input should have been sought before making the decision.
The decision to close Good Samaritan was made by an internal group before it was announced to the public in January the morning after the final board vote. It’s been a subject of controversy that community leaders were not brought in while the decision was still be considered by the giant health system.
“Systemic racism begins not with business decisions, but it begins with the lack of inclusion in business decisions,” said Rev. Renard Allen of St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church.
But community input could not have changed the decision, said Premier Health officials. The aging hospital campus would still be in a city with a declining population and almost twice as many hospital beds as it needs, back-dropped by a health care industry that’s nationally in upheaval.
“There are some realities of health care trends and the way in which health care administration is changing that are not things that you can impact,” Anita Moore, chair of Premier Health’s board of trustees, said.
Premier officials also said that it was important that they tell their staff first before the news of the decision got out to the public. Even if a small outside group of outside officials were informed early on, the news would have inevitably leaked and appeared in news reports.
Premier Health president and CEO Mary Boosalis said she would not want internal staff to learn their hospital was closing from reading about it in a news report. It was more important to have a consistent message, she said, than to let outside parties know about the possible closing and risk the chaos of staff wondering until the board of trustees vote what would happen with their jobs.
“The night of the vote, it could have gone… it was not a slam dunk,” Boosalis said. “People make their own conscious decision. And if they had not voted with the decision we ended up with can you imagine the chaos among people, particularly those who work within Premier?”
2. Premier’s suburban expansion was questioned.
For hospital networks like Premier Health, the future is looking like less hospital beds and more outpatient services.
But while the total number of local inpatient hospital beds is not increasing, Premier is adding some inpatient beds at Good Samaritan North Health Center’s campus in Englewood and at Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville.
This was a contentious point at Saturday’s meeting. Berkeley Moore, a 25-year Dayton resident, told Premier officials that “maybe you guys spread yourself too thin” in the suburbs.
Boosalis said about half of the beds are empty at the three hospitals in Dayton city limits and the health network is following demand for more outpatient services and more locations closer to growing population centers. Dayton’s population has been shrinking while other parts of the region like the southern suburbs have been growing.
City Commissioner Matt Joseph questioned Premier’s decision.
“If the problem is too many beds, then why are beds being built in Englewood or in Centerville?” Joseph said.
3. There are more public meetings coming up about the future of the campus.
Premier Health is looking for feedback on what should come next for the main campus at Philadelphia Drive. The campus will be torn down and turn it into a shovel-ready site for redevelopment, and Premier plans to give $10 million in seed money toward its redevelopment. Five Rivers Health Center, a separately operated center on campus that serves residents regardless of ability to pay, will remain in operation at the site and the parking garage will remain, but everything else at the main campus will be razed.
The public can weigh in on what the future of the site should be at two forums scheduled at:
• 1 p.m. March 22 at Fairview United Methodist Church.
• 6 p.m. March 22 at Fairview Pre-K-6th School.
Premier is also planning to gather public input through meetings with community leaders, surveys, community events, workshops and its website daytonphoenixproject.org.