Wednesday, January 31, 2007

And so it begins

It has been expected for a long time now, but the financially strapped Forum Health system has taken the first major step to shut down its Youngstown operations, namely Tod Children's Hospital and Northside Hospital. The complex on Gypsy Lane has existed since the early 1900's, first as City Hospital - Northside Unit and then became a part of the Youngstown Hospital Association which became the Western Reserve Care Center before that was bought out by Forum.

It was announced today, with Forum Health's approval, that Akron Children's Hospital is partnering with St. Elizabeth Health Center to take over pediatric services currently offered at Tod Children's Hospital. Once the deal is finalized and approved, Tod Children's Hospital will close and patients will eventually be transferred to St. Elizabeth's new Boardman hospital, which is under construction. Akron Children's will be in charge of running the new pediatric unit and the neonatal intensive care unit.

It is incredible that just 11 years ago, we had four acute care hospitals in the city limits (Southside, Northside, St. Elizabth's, and Youngstown Osteopathic) plus Woodside (psych) and Tod's (children). Within two years, we will have just one. A quick look at this list shows just how many hospitals have closed in Ohio in the since 1980.

In the long run, the closure of Forum Northside and Tod Children's is inevitable. Many of their problems, outside of poor management, come from a horrible public image, primarily regarding patient care. For some reason over the years they have developed an image of being a "welfare hospital". I don't necessarily think that it true, but a lot of people do. Operating a health care system is expensive but having a poor public image while trying to do it makes it damn near impossible to operate in the black.

Regardless of the issues surrounding this closure, it is nice to see the Forum Board is putting some plan into action. A quick closure of Forum without any transition plan would sink the hospital system in Youngstown. St. Elizabeth's would be swamped and it too would probably crumble. It has neither the funds nor the beds to take on the weight of Northside. Hopefully some future outside help like we see with Akron Children's, some better management from St. Elizabeth's, and the addition of the Boardman hospital will help secure the hospital system within Youngstown.

NOTE: I found this link on which is a copy of the letter recently sent to all Forum Health employees announcing the closure.

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