A group of pastors from the west and northwest sides of Dayton gathered outside Premier Health’s downtown headquarters to protest the plans to close Good Samaritan Hospital.
The Dayton-based health network announced Jan. 17 that it would close down the hospital by the end of the year and shift services and jobs at the hospital to Miami Valley Hospital and other locations in the system.
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The decision to close the northwest Dayton hospital is a blow that comes after decades of businesses and jobs shifting out of the surrounding primarily black neighborhoods and into the suburbs, leaving behind a smaller and poorer population with less opportunities.
Rev. Benjamin Speare-Hardy, with St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, said the closing announcement was like a bombshell and said it’s important to fight for the community.
“The hospital is so critical. We’ve lost grocery stores, you name it. All the other businesses are leaving and we can’t afford to lose a hospital that takes care of the needs of the poor, especially in that area, so we have to fight for them,” Speare-Hardy said.
The group of pastors brought some of the community’s frustration to Premier’s doorsteps Monday morning as about 30 residents rallied at the corner of Second and Main streets outside the nonprofit’s headquarters.
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Those in attendance voiced concern about what the closing will mean for the economy and health of the neighborhoods, and expressed frustration that affected community members were not part of the conversation while the decision to close Good Sam was being made.
The NAACP and local pastors are hosting a community forum with Premier Health CEO Mary Boosalis at 10 a.m. Feb. 10 at Zion Baptist Church.
The hospital main campus will be knocked down with the exception of the parking garage and Five Rivers Health Center and turned into a shovel-ready site for redevelopment. Premier intends to give $10 million in seed money toward the redevelopment.
Miami Valley Hospital, also a Premier affiliate, is also in Dayton and a little over five miles away.
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Premier said in a statement on the protest, “We respect the right of citizens to participate in a peaceful protest. As we conveyed in our announcement, we look forward to working with community members to identify the possibilities for redevelopment of the Good Samaritan Hospital campus on Philadelphia Drive.”
Speare-Hardy said the west side is often forgotten when it comes to investment, and the difference can be seen when you drive down to Oakwood the roads are better maintained and there aren’t boarded up homes.
“I’ve been in Dayton for 18 years and what I’ve realized is there is a line of demarcation across the river. That is superficial and needs to be changed, but people have it in the back of their minds that nothing good happens on the west side,” Speare-Hardy said.
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Rev. William Harris of Believers Christian Fellowship Church, also president of the Dayton Public School board, said he lives and ministers in the Good Sam area and is concerned what it will mean for the health of the community.
“They have to look at finances and we understand that but we also understand that there would be a lack of service in our community,” said Harris.
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