JP Findlay’s Project

The producer of a short video (it’s been fixed again) of Lakewood firefighters commenting on Lakewood Hospital, JP Findlay also had this to say – in early 2015:

“Lakewood Hospital, in local Lakewood, Ohio recently announced it would be closing it’s doors at the end of 2016. A decision that has left many Lakewood paramedics uneasy, to say the least.

Owned by the city and occupied by the Cleveland Clinic since 1996, Lakewood Hospital has a current lease on the building it occupies until 2026. The hospital is a 233-bed inpatient facility, which boasts a comprehensive stroke center, emergency department and cancer center.

Lakewood Hospital is perhaps most well-known as a highly regarded neurology center.

Toby Cosgrove, President and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic states of Lakewood Hospital: “Half the beds are occupied at any one time. The hospital has been operating at a loss since 2005.”

Lakewood Hospital in recent years has already started downsizing services, using nearby Cleveland Clinic owned Fairview Hospital to accommodate it’s trauma and pediatric patients. Lakewood Hospital has also closed it’s cardiac catheterization lab, which provides life-saving measures to patients suffering from potentially fatal cardiac emergencies. Fairview Hospital and MetroHealth Medical Center are again being relied on for these services.

Patients receiving care by Lakewood Fire Department paramedics, which need the services no longer being provided by Lakewood Hospital, must instead be transported to area hospitals outside of the city. This is placing an enormous burden onto the paramedics to provide the highest level care possible, in the shortest amount of time possible to safely transport a patient to the appropriate facility where specialized care may be given.

Hospital staffs, according to these Lakewood paramedics, appear to be overwhelmed with the new influx of patients from neighboring departments no longer able to transport to Lakewood Hospital. Paramedics note much longer wait times for open hospital beds, as well as the detrimental effects to the patient’s condition which may be caused by longer transport times.

“Once Lakewood Hospital closes, city ambulances will increase the number of trips to hospitals outside the city from about 469 runs per year to about 2,200,” says Lakewood Fire Chief Scott Gilman.

The City of Lakewood estimates the new Lakewood Family Health Center, which is expected to begin construction around the same time as the current hospitals closure, can handle most of the patient load which the current Lakewood Hospital maintains.

The number of beds in this new emergency department isn’t yet known. When beds are no longer available in this new emergency department, or when specialized care is needed, about 45% would likely go to Fairview Hospital or MetroHealth Medical Center, both in Cleveland.

Chief Gilman also noted, “trips outside Lakewood would increase the time an ambulance crew is tied up on a run from about 45 to 55 minutes to Lakewood Hospital to about 73 minutes to another hospital.”

When asked earlier this year, Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers wrote: “If you’re like most residents in Lakewood, you’re not using the hospital at all.”

This statement, is not a common sentiment shared by many Lakewood firefighter/paramedics; who see first-hand the impact Lakewood Hospital’s closing has on the community and the fire department.

“It’s making longer transports already,” says Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan Mackey — a 2-year member of Lakewood Fire Department. “We’re having to take people other places depending on what’s wrong with them and I’m sure it’s only going to get worse once they cut even more stuff from the hospital.”

Firefighter/Paramedic Joe Medwid shares the same fear of no longer being able to provide the highest level of care to those in need. “It puts a demand on those hospitals,” said Medwid. “It’s going to affect the city and the residents and their access to emergency care and our response times being out of the city”.

Lakewood Fire Department currently staffs roughly 87 members, in three fire stations located within the 5.5 square mile city boundaries. However, with over 52,000 residents calling the city of Lakewood home, the slipping standard of care caused by losing a key area hospital is very unsettling.

With the call volume rising annually the last three years, an additional burden is being placed on these emergency responders to get their ambulance restocked and back in-service within the city as quickly as possible.

Attorney Christopher DeVito, representing a group of taxpayers, believes legal action should be taken against the Cleveland Clinic to prevent the hospital from closing its doors. DeVito wrote a letter to Lakewood Law Director Kevin Butler, stating he “would file a lawsuit on behalf of the taxpayers of Lakewood to enforce the city’s contractual rights and hold the Cleveland Clinic to the terms of its existing lease of the hospital.”

Mr. DeVito plans to file this lawsuit May 1 if no action is taken against the Cleveland Clinic to prevent or delay the closing.”