Citizens speak out against Issue 64

The newest Lakewood Observer delivers further thoughtful, informed criticism of Issue 64.

Some officials apparently find the objections to 64 so troubling, meanwhile, that they have chosen to retreat from them; on Tuesday, the Observer‘s publisher reported that a newspaper which community leaders have praised for a decade has been blocked from entering City Hall. Despite the presence of multiple articles on both sides of the issue, it seems that the proponents of Issue 64 would rather avoid contrary views than engage with them.

For those willing to give the case against Issue 64 a hearing, however, the current Observer is well worth reading. Pick up a free copy at businesses and other sites around Lakewood, and let them know that you appreciate their support for open dialogue. Among the comments in this issue:

The Cleveland Clinic’s records confirm that it owed Lakewood more than $270 million under the terms of its former lease on Lakewood Hospital—flatly contradicting the claim of Issue 64 proponents.

PJ Bennett raises a number of interesting points about the lease which Issue 64 tears up, including a reminder that even the Cleveland Clinic is required to abide by a lease’s terms, even when it doesn’t want to.

“Sorting Out Issue 64” takes a detailed look at the actual agreement up for a public vote this November, and confirms that Issue 64 will allow Lakewood’s ER to shut down at any time.

One Lakewood resident provides a frank account of another recent, desperate effort to keep only one point of view represented in the debate about Issue 64.

A local author addresses fears that Lakewood is stuck with a bad deal, no matter what, by reviewing our history and reminding us that Lakewood’s people can make better options happen, and have done so again and again. As he writes, “This fall we have another chance to continue our Lakewood story… we can vote against a needlessly closed hospital, and against a retreating, declining Lakewood that settles for less.”

August updates

A brief update on some of the things happening and coming up, as August advances:

  • It’s time to move into action, and get out the vote to defeat the deal which closed Lakewood Hospital. Drop by the campaign kick-off potluck on Sept. 4 to get started!
  • In the most recent Lakewood Observer, Bill Mager looks into what became of the deal’s cheerleaders, “Build Lakewood.” Sharp-eyed citizens have taken a look at the group’s relaunch under yet another identity, meanwhile, and apparently they still haven’t studied the basic facts of their own deal.
  • The Observer‘s publisher draws a contrast between the disastrous top-down deal, and another local project which shows how making decisions openly, as a community, is the way to real progress.
  • Our campaign site stronglakewood.com looked at a related issue, recently, in examining the deal’s brand of imitation progress with a shiny exterior.

Check back for more news, or connect on Facebook and Twitter—and remember to vote against the deal on Nov. 8 to open up better options!

Facts fail to stay buried despite city hall spin

Lakewood City Hall and the Cleveland Clinic have been attempting to do an end-run around “interference” with their agenda for more than a year. As far back as January 2015, officials informed media that “Cleveland Clinic and the Lakewood Hospital Association will close Lakewood Hospital” as though nothing more would be said. Their fantasy quickly ran into the reality that a community-owned hospital is not a commodity to be traded around at private whim.

After 16 months of shell-games and evasions, officials’ actions face review by an ongoing lawsuit and a November referendum. Yet they continue to proceed as though they can bluff their way past all resistance. In the most recent Lakewood Observer, multiple residents take note of this ongoing bluff and demonstrate that it’s failing. “Burying the Hospital Alive” points out that city council—after choosing to schedule a referendum on closing the hospital in November—is proceeding as though the measure is already approved. In “Bad Government” part five, citizen investigator Brian Essi continues to detail how city officials have attempted to bury records of their actions while holding publicly-paid office.

Yet, as “Field Of Dreams Part Deux” confirms, too many people have taken up shovels for city hall’s information-landfill to succeed. Word is getting out about things like MetroHealth’s proposal to operate Lakewood Hospital, which demolishes false claims that the Cleveland Clinic’s decanting plan was the only option on offer. As the author writes:

Our civic leadership has no credible plan capable of replacing the economic engine that they have intentionally shut down. Over the balance of its now-canceled leased, Lakewood Hospital would have generated more than a billion dollars of economic impact. This is a conservative estimate that only assumes the continued operation of the hospital through the current lease period and not after 2026.

Did our civic leaders understand that they were shutting down a billion dollars’ worth of economic flow when they rejected the Metro Health System proposal?  It seems not.  If you were selling your house, you would have it appraised before putting it on the market. If our civic leaders had the operations or assets of Lakewood Hospital appraised by independent professionals, those appraisals have never been made public. If they didn’t have such a valuable asset appraised, then shame on them.

All of these basic, common-sense practices—an independent appraisal, a public RFP, and open bidding—can still be performed when Lakewood says no to the alternative of lazy, prefab policy-making. Voters will have their choice on November 8.

Emergency care, with some exceptions

Following recent questions about the limits of Lakewood’s freestanding emergency department in the Lakewood Observer and at a recent city council meeting, the Cleveland Clinic has rushed to attempt community reassurance.

Advocates for Lakewood Hospital have drawn attention to a statement at the Clinic’s own web site*, posted barely a year ago, advising that “Some situations are clearly an emergency: A heart attack, fall off a ladder, serious kitchen burn or bone break. You know to call 9-1-1 and to get your loved one to the nearest hospital,” i.e. an actual hospital and not a freestanding emergency department.

Apparently, both Lakewood City Council and the Clinic are reluctant to directly confront the limitations of care without a hospital. In a full-page ad on page 3 of the April 13 Observer, the Clinic touts “full-service emergency care” in Lakewood, “always close to home.”

Unfortunately, this and the rest of the Clinic’s advertising about services in Lakewood is mostly an exercise in misrepresentation. Given that there is no fixed definition of “emergency department,” the claim of “full-service” emergency care is largely meaningless.

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Referendum petitions delivered to city hall

Joined by members of Save Lakewood Hospital and the local media, a citizens’ committee turned in petitions Thursday morning to allow a March referendum on the planned closure of the city’s hospital.

Petitioners collected more than 3,400 signatures in just over three weeks, frequently in the face of snow and bitter cold. Save Lakewood Hospital spokesman Kevin Young, who addressed media ahead of time, observed that this demonstrates the breadth of concern over a rushed, once-sided deal and the determination of everyday Lakewoodites to stand up for the community.

Acknowledgement of petitions' delivery.
Official acknowledgement.

For more, see coverage at WTAM, cleveland.com, Channel 19 and WKSU.

New Cleveland Clinic plan crafted in secrecy, sprung in haste

After weeks of rumors, on Monday evening Lakewood city officials unveiled another plan to close Lakewood Hospital, at an unannounced press conference just hours before a city council meeting. Council plans to make a second reading of the plan on December 14, at an additional meeting that was also a last-minute announcement (and, as of Tuesday morning, is still unlisted on the city’s online calendar). The regular meeting on December 21 is currently proposed for a third reading and vote.

The outline released on Monday is, as observed by WKYC, not materially different from the “Letter of Intent” produced by Cleveland Clinic nearly a year ago. (Click here for a PDF of the “master agreement” text.)

Despite having withheld notice of this proposal as long as possible, council was joined by a substantial number of citizens Monday evening. At least a dozen people spoke to council about the proposal, all but one of whom were critical of Cleveland Clinic, the plan, and the questionable haste in a two-week lead-up to a vote four days before Christmas with two lame-duck council members.

Many people also urged council to live up to the responsibilities professed by one of its own members in May, and to invite Surgical Development Partners to a fair hearing of its interest in Lakewood Hospital properties. No official addressed these pleas at Monday’s meeting, however in a statement to the press, Law Director Kevin Butler insisted that the mysterious losses which have been reported at Lakewood Hospital for well over a year are now, suddenly, so urgent that Lakewood cannot spare any time to hear from SDP.

Meanwhile, with a lawsuit in progress, and two requests for independent investigations which may become even more compelling as a result of these proceedings, the viability of officials’ intention to “move forward” will remain in doubt.

Everyone concerned about Lakewood Hospital—and about the basic values of honest, inclusive, responsible government—is encouraged to contact members of council.

Kucinich hosts press conference, forum

Former congressman Dennis Kucinich addressed several representatives of local media Monday morning, in a press conference in front of Lakewood Hospital.

Distributing copies of the “decanting” plan and additional documents recently revealed in court, Kucinich asserted that Cleveland Clinic intentionally misled the city of Lakewood with promises of a new hospital. Urging Lakewood’s people and leadership to consider the new information becoming available, he called on the city to file a brief in support of the lawsuit for damages to Lakewood Hospital.

Kucinich also hosted a community forum in the evening, at the Lakewood main library. One attendee has posted photos here, and cleveland.com has a brief story about the forum here.

The documents Kucinich presented are available online at the end of this cleveland.com article.

WKYC and Fox8 have posted stories about the press conference; the Lakewood Observer has a draft transcript of Kucinich’s remarks, and photos.

Feature story in this week’s Scene

The new issue of Scene carries an extensive feature on “The Struggle to Save (or Close) Lakewood Hospital…” by Eric Sandy. This is a great opportunity to help friends and neighbors who aren’t closely following every event and update in this drawn-out fight; pick up a copy and pass it on.

The general story touted by the city is that “changes in health care” and “declining patient volumes” had forced the mayor’s hand. But as the opposition described to Scene, the Cleveland Clinic can pretty much dictate who goes where — i.e., which and how many Northeast Ohio patients take their health care business to which Clinic outpost. With services like pediatrics and trauma care being shipped elsewhere in the Clinic network from Lakewood Hospital, patient volumes began decreasing ipso facto. What patients were left were more often enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare, kicking Clinic profits down another notch.

Very quickly, residents chipped away at claims that “changes in health care” were driving the losses. Puzzle pieces began locking into place. The data points that were being used to justify the hospital’s closure were direct consequences of the Clinic’s evolving policies over the past 10 years.

The complete story is also online.

Excellent rally turnout at City Hall

Thank you to everyone who helped with Save Lakewood Hospital’s rally Monday evening. An energetic crowd of young and old stretched from one corner of Lakewood City Hall’s block to the other, reminding city council that the community will be heard on our hospital’s future.

Several speakers also addressed the rally, including Michelle Mahon of National Nurses United, State Senator Mike Skindell, and multiple Lakewood residents testifying to how important Lakewood Hospital has been in their lives.

Following the rally, Save Lakewood Hospital Chair Marguerite Harkness led a delegation presenting city council with well over 2,000 signatures calling for Lakewood Hospital to remain open.

Senator Skindell has posted some photos to Twitter. Local media turned out for the rally as well; cleveland.com has posted a story (with video). Check back for more updates.

The Atlantic reports on Lakewood Hospital & similar communities

Writing for The Atlantic, Phil Galewitz examines the trend of hospitals abandoning older neighborhoods and cities like Lakewood, in pursuit of suburban affluence. The example of Belleville, Illinois’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital may sound eerily familiar:

Describing plans to leave behind some services, including a walk-in clinic, St. Elizabeth’s CEO Maryann Reese insists the hospital is not abandoning the city or the poor.

But that’s exactly how many residents, community leaders, and clergy see it. If St. Elizabeth’s leaves downtown, they say, it will limit care for many poorer residents, especially those dependent on public transportation, and lead to overcrowding at the city’s one other hospital, which is downsizing. Many also worry about the loss of jobs and of the visitors to the hospital who patronize local shops and eateries.

Geri Boyer, who runs a bed and breakfast and an engineering firm on Main Street, said that as a Catholic, she’s “appalled” by the hospital’s plan. “I do think they are putting profit motivations over the mission of serving the poor. I am upset and embarrassed for [them].”

“Communities can be tipped by the loss of a vital medical institution,” the Belleville police captain John Moody II wrote in a scathing letter about the plan to a state review board. “There is too much at stake and the loss will be catastrophic and I fear unrecoverable.”

Hospitals have moved to follow population migrations before, but the relocations are becoming more common.

Read the whole story at The Atlantic.

Rebuttal to Mayor’s comments on Channel 43

You can watch the Save LW Hospital Reply on Channel 19, online or:

Wednesday April 29 – Monday May 4

Wednesday April 29, 2015 (end of the 6 pm newscast)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 (end of the 10 pm newscast)

Thursday, April 30, 2015 (end of the Noon newscast)

Thursday, April 30, 2015 (end of the 5 pm newscast)

Thursday, April 30, 2015 (end of the 10 pm newscast)

Friday, May 1, 2015 (end of the Noon newscast)

Saturday, May 2, 2015 (end of the 6 pm newscast)

Saturday, May 2, 2015 (end of the 11 pm newscast)

Sunday, May 3, 2015 (end of the 6:30 pm newscast)

Sunday, May 3, 2015 (end of the 10 pm newscast)

Sunday, May 3, 2015 (end of the 11 pm newscast)

Monday, May 4, 2015 (end of the Noon newscast)

NPR, other media notice

Tuesday’s announcement of potential legal action against the City of Lakewood has generated further coverage of Lakewood Hospital. Ideastream has posted a story, here; the announcement is also the lead in the most recent Lakewood Observer.

Also in the Observer, critical comments about the “letter of intent” scenario from Dr. Terence Kilroy and Jared Denman.

At cleveland.com, meanwhile, John Vacha critiques the consequences of the Cleveland Clinic model for urban sprawl, and Coletta Graham calls on Lakewood to rally in our hospital’s defense.

City of Lakewood faces lawsuit for hospital management

Attorney Christopher M. DeVito has called on the City of Lakewood to defend its contractual rights, under its lease agreement with Cleveland Clinic, rather than cooperating with the Clinic to liquidate Lakewood Hospital.

Supported by Senator Michael Skindell and other Save Lakewood Hospital members, DeVito addressed local news media at a press conference outside the hospital Tuesday morning. DeVito explained that he has written Lakewood Law Director Kevin Butler, calling on him to file a lawsuit on or before May 1 to “preserve and ensure the continued operation of Lakewood Hospital for the benefit of the Lakewood community.”

In the event the City fails to file a lawsuit by the May 1 deadline, DeVito intends to file a lawsuit on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of the City of Lakewood.

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Hospital campaign gaining support, logo

Save Lakewood Hospital has introduced a new image to complement its campaign. Incorporating both the heritage of Lakewood Hospital, represented by its distinctive architectural presence, and the pulse of the living community that is rallying to save the hospital, the graphic will identify Save Lakewood Hospital communications and programs. The design was prepared by local studio Modern Alchemy.

In other news, support for Lakewood Hospital continues attracting media notice. The Lakewood Observer has recently published a detailed critique of the hospital closure plan by state senator Michael Skindell, as well as an impassioned letter from Joe Gombarcik. The Sun Post-Herald has recently published two letters supporting the hospital, and Save Lakewood Hospital’s efforts.

Thank you to all who have spoken up. Please continue making your voices heard!