A debate over the future of Lakewood Hospital is once again in the hands of voters, even as the Cleveland Clinic moves along with plans to replace it with an outpatient health center and emergency room.
That deal was finalized earlier this year after Lakewood City Council voted unanimously for it, but that was before opponents gathered enough signatures to place Issue 64 on the November 8 ballot.
A vote for Issue 64 would affirm the existing agreement. Save Lakewood Hospital, a group that organized the ballot issue, is urging people to vote against Issue 64.
“If people vote against it, we go back to the original agreement,” Kevin Young with Save Lakewood Hospital said.
That agreement would leave Cleveland Clinic on the hook for millions of dollars in liabilities. Officials cited declining patient numbers and declining revenue in a decision to close it and replace it with a smaller outpatient facility across the street that’s set to open in 2018.
But opponents are frustrated by the lack of inpatient access and said the Cleveland Clinic paid too little for the property.
“To be sure, it’s morally corrupt,” Young said. “The clinic all along had been taking out services at the hospital, and of course by taking our services, they made the hospital less and less profitable.”
But there’s another group that wants people to vote for Issue 64.
“It’s going to guarantee 21st century healthcare services here in Lakewood," Jay Carson with Lakewood Voters for Progress said.
Carson said the hospital was likely going to close anyway and he said going back on the contract could put the city in a legal limbo that could result in more expensive lawsuits.
“The health center will move forward because of that binding contract,” Carson said, “But it may open up the door for the other side to go once again to court to a judge to drag the city back into court to try to stop this.”
Voters will decide what happens next on November 8.