Bringing the Community Onboard
It's been happening more and more across the country—hospital mergers or closings. Usually there's been careful planning, talks, and forethought dedicated to the final event. However, in most instances, the biggest outcry comes from the local community. Community members may not realize the cost of running or building a hospital, but they are emotionally invested.
The importance of healthcare buildings and their relation to the community is a dynamic that is sometimes overlooked, and it is a relationship that needs tending. After all, it is those residents who may be the future patients.
Over the past few months, I've been keeping an eye on the closing of the Cleveland Clinic Huron Hospital on Cleveland's east side. It's not the first—Cleveland’s Saint Luke's and Mount Sinai also were closed down and patients were absorbed into remaining hospitals. The new outpatient Cleveland Clinic Huron Community Health Center will open October 3, 2011 at a site nearby.
Although Huron Hospital is located in what some may think is a less-than-ideal neighborhood, it serves a vital purpose in the community, and also for nearby communities, because it has a much needed Level II trauma center and emergency department. Now, the objections to its closing being raised point out the longer drive it will take for emergency services to get to the nearest trauma center and how this may possibly cost lives.
In debates with community leaders, and citizen representatives, the hospital cited falling patient populations, a decrease in the community population, and increasing costs to maintain the aging facility. These are statements that have been repeated across the country.
However, in other cities where mergers and closings occurred, there seemed to be a smooth transition. Or was there? Was the community appeased when the final new product emerged? Was it a matter of the residents being kept informed from the first discussion to the design and opening?
Those in the healthcare industry certainly understand there is now a difference in how healthcare is being delivered and they must stay up-to-date with those changes, but is the community being left behind? Must they be involved in each step of change?