Who is against Issue 64

Who opposes Issue 64?

Independent doctors. Professionals in law and finance.

Ohio Nurses.

Lakewood’s state senator. Respected emeritus city council members, including a former council president.

Progressive reform groups. Labor leaders. Volunteers.

Parents. Students. Retirees. Taxpayers. Homeowners.

The Lakewood Observer‘s publisher.

Thousands of Lakewoodites who have petitioned for repealing the deal that closed Lakewood Hospital.

Business owners. Entrepreneurs.

Authors. Designers. Real-estate professionals.

Basically, people—and more specifically, people who care about keeping Lakewood a strong community.

Please join us and vote against Issue 64.

We Deserve a Better Deal
Stand with us, for our city and our future.

Reality check: Our hospital

The people of Lakewood owned Lakewood Hospital, along with all of its property, tangible assets, licenses, cash and investments.

Founded in 1907, Lakewood Hospital became a municipal institution in 1930. Decades later, the city assigned oversight of the hospital to Lakewood Hospital Association (LHA), which leased the hospital to the Cleveland Clinic. The hospital eventually acquired signs declaring it “a Cleveland Clinic Hospital.” But the 1996 agreement made it clear that the hospital and its assets were leased from the city, and would still belong to the city at the end of that lease.

The full lease agreement is a dense document, but a press release from the City of Lakewood spelled out what the new lease would do, plainly and simply:

  • “Protects the City of Lakewood’s ownership of current property and any future acquisitions by LHA.”
  • “Guarantees that all assets (property and cash) revert to the City of Lakewood at the end of the lease term.”

A deal that ends this lease early and returns anything less than 100% of all hospital assets to Lakewood is a terrible deal. The deal that closed Lakewood Hospital gives away all but a fraction of the hospital’s assets.

That deal is on this fall’s ballot as Issue 64, with two choices. For, or against.

Our public hospital’s assets and property belonged to us, and to the future generations who will follow us. Giving it away betrays the Lakewood of today and tomorrow. We owe it to our future to vote against Issue 64.

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Reality check: 64 means limited healthcare

In this fall’s vote on Issue 64, Lakewood will judge the legislation that closed our public hospital. But how many services actually shut down along with the hospital? How much is really gone if it remains closed and disused?

Almost everything.

Here’s the Cleveland Clinic’s web page for Lakewood, today. It lists more than a dozen services.

Here’s the archived web page of Lakewood Hospital in late 2015. It includes  those services plus at least 15 more major specialties. Lakewood Hospital provided all of the following services, all gone under the Issue 64 deal:

It’s worth noting that the services at Lakewood Hospital were so extensive that nine separate offerings were combined under just two headings: Neurological, and Rehabilitative Services. By contrast, the current list is padded out by making four or five “services” out of tests that could all be grouped together as “radiology.”

Issue 64 isn’t quality care, it’s severely limited care plus a lot of marketing. We deserve a better deal.

Vote against Issue 64.

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Reality check: costs to taxpayers

A vote against Issue 64 won’t cost taxpayers. Why would it?

Lakewood can’t be saddled with debt, because Lakewood Hospital was not in debt. Nor will the city be required to run Lakewood Hospital at a loss. The hospital was never taxpayer-subsidized in more than 100 years, and in fact made consistent profits that benefited the community up until the last year of Cleveland Clinic management.

Voting against Issue 64 won’t land the city with huge legal bills, either. Fighting over Lakewood Hospital in court has actually been the choice of the groups who support 64, again and again.

In this and other ways, the Issue 64 plan is the real drain on Lakewood’s finances and taxpaying public.

  • The deal up for a vote exchanges $120 million in public assets for less than $40 million in return. What’s called “investment” is just leftovers from hospital assets that we already owned.
  • The complete impact of closing Lakewood Hospital will remove nearly $300 million from our local economy, every year.
  • The Issue 64 health center is a boondoggle that keeps running up additional bills, most paid by the Lakewood public.

To keep Lakewood financially strong in the years ahead, we should vote against Issue 64.

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Reality Check: court battles

The vote on Issue 64, whatever its outcome, will not mean Lakewood has to go to court. But one side in the debate over 64 and Lakewood Hospital has shown a consistent preference for the courtroom.

In 2015, Lakewood residents concerned by mismanagement of our publicly owned hospital called on city and hospital officials to enforce the terms of its lease to the Cleveland Clinic. Thousands of citizens supported the call for officials to defend Lakewood’s rights throughout the lease’s remaining decade. Local officials declined even to attempt doing so. Citizens then reluctantly suggested that they would seek judicial enforcement of our rights if necessary—but delayed the final step of a court filing for several more weeks in hope that City Hall would reconsider.

Since then, citizen plaintiffs have made every effort to minimize the burden on the courts and taxpaying public. Five residents represent thousands of other Lakewoodites, in order to avoid the avalanche of costly paperwork which would have accompanied a larger official number of plaintiffs. In December, cleveland.com reported the judge advising an out-of-court resolution:

“I’m of the opinion that some meaningful mediation would be helpful here,” [Judge John] O’Donnell told the attorneys. “I’m of that opinion, but I can’t force it.” O’Donnell said if the parties agreed, he or another judge could mediate or the parties could hire an outside mediator.

City and hospital officials declined to explore this option. Citizens’ legal counsel, by contrast, “said he would be open to mediation.” In his exact words, “We’re always willing to talk and try to resolve matters.”

That’s worth keeping in mind, whenever someone tries to claim that Issue 64’s opponents want to keep the city tied up in court.

Reality Check: 24/7 emergency care, for now

Lakewood’s emergency room no longer has a hospital attached, which means that heart attack, stroke and other critical patients who arrive must be transferred elsewhere.

It still provides a place to turn, here in Lakewood, 24 hours a day. But there is no guarantee that it will continue to do so.

The agreement which closed Lakewood Hospital addresses emergency care. But the Emergency Services section (on page four) begins by saying that “there is a present need for an emergency department in Lakewood, available on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year basis.” Not a permanent need.

The agreement states that the Cleveland Clinic “will address this need by opening the FHC [Family Health Center] with an emergency department.” After that, however, “The need for emergency services may change” and will be subject to “ongoing evaluation.”

No agreement which includes language like this guarantees 24/7 emergency care.

That isn’t a hypothetical issue for many years from now, either. The Cleveland Clinic has already decided that northeast Ohio communities do not need a 24/7 ER or any local emergency care at all. Last November, the Clinic shut down a freestanding ER in Sagamore Hills with exactly one month’s warning—and told residents that converting the ER to an Express Care office actually benefited them.

According to the Clinic, “This new level of care will better serve residents” compared with the ER it replaced.

The deal that closed Lakewood Hospital doesn’t guarantee 24/7 emergency care close to home—it risks leaving our city without local emergency care at all. Vote against Issue 64 to give Lakewood a better future instead.