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St. Vincent service reduction the latest in a long history of hospital closures and consolidations

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Posted at 7:21 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 19:49:23-04

CLEVELAND — With St. Vincent Charity Hospital ending inpatient and emergency services, the landscape of Northeast Ohio health care will see a significant change, yet again.

It’s the latest in a history of hospital shutdowns in Northeast Ohio that have impacted patients over the years.

Fewer and fewer community hospitals have been available recently, whether it be from closings or consolidations.

Back in 2000, there were 42 hospitals in Northeast Ohio, according to the Cleveland Hospital Association. Those hospitals had 30 different owners.

Over the years, the hospital landscape shifted, with an ownership arms race between Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.

Dr. Robert Haynie worked at Mr. Sinai Hospital for 22 years.

“We were a teaching hospital,” he said.

The hospital was sold and closed in 2000.

“I came to the hospital and there [the news of the closure] was on all the news channels, and we're told we got two weeks,” Haynie said.

By 2020, five other hospitals had closed, like St. Luke's and Huron Hospital.

Other community hospitals bearing names of suburbs — Parma, Lakewood and Euclid — were taken over.and repurposed.

Despite all of that, Haynie says he doesn't think patients are worse off.

“I don't think we've had a drop-off in quality,” he said. “In fact, I don't think you can get better healthcare anywhere in the world than in Cleveland.”

Dr. Martin Gaynor from Carnegie Mellon University has studied hospital consolidations for 40 years.

“This is something I’ve been looking at for a long time,” he said.

Gaynor testified before Congress in March of 2019 about the impact hospital consolidation has on Americans.

“Prices are high and rising. There are egregious pricing practices,” he said. “This massive consolidation in healthcare has not delivered for Americans. It has not given us better care or increased efficiency.”

He tells us in the past 20 years, there have been more than 1,600 hospital consolidations around the country.

He disagrees with Haynie about the caliber of care.

“When there are mergers, between close competitors, the quality actually deteriorates,” Gaynor said.

Haynie said there are still unacceptable infant mortality and longevity rates in Cleveland.

“In fact, in Fairfax, where I do a lot of community outreach, it's more like a second or third-world country.”

Today, Cleveland Clinic, UH, and Summa own 66% of the hospitals that were listed in 2000.

Gaynor reports consolidations, in general, bring lack of competition, lack of options for patients and lack of appointment times available.

“People really are worried about our healthcare system and they're unhappy about it,” Gaynor said.

RELATED: Recovering from a pandemic after years of hospital growth and ownership consolidation

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