After more than a century of caring for the sick and injured, Affinity Medical Center in Massillon will cease operations in early February.
With six consecutive years of unprofitability, the 156-bed, acute care hospital will be permanently shedding 808 jobs in the process, officials from the hospital’s parent company, Quorum Health Corp., said.
Affinity has been in operation in some capacity since 1910. Many in Massillon consider it a community hospital. However, in recent years it has been dogged by declining revenues, increasing provider compensation and a highly competitive market, company officials said.
More often than not, however, the hospital is full, said nurse Amy West.
“We’ll see over 43,000 patients this year in our emergency room. That’s been a steady increase over the past 5 years,” West said. “Minutes in care here count. Seconds count.”
Affinity will stop accepting patients on Jan. 21 before clinical services cease on Feb. 4. The entire facility will be darkened and locked by March 31.
Dr. Ajay Seth, a renown orthopedic surgeon, performs surgeries at Affinity one day a week. News of the hospital’s future closure was as shocking as it was jarring, he said.
“I don’t think anybody here saw that coming,” Dr. Seth said. “Massillon has had a community hospital for over a hundred years. It’s very difficult to think of a community like that — that is tight-knit — not to have their own community hospital. This place to close the way it did, it’s something that is really going to rock that city, unfortunately in a negative way.”
Dr. Seth said he was particularly perplexed by how sudden and quickly the hospital will be closed.
“The hardest part of this whole thing is that in December, you’re having Christmas parties and talking to the employees,” Dr. Seth said. “Two weeks later, you’re like, we’re shutting down.”
The local union representing the nurses at Affinity didn’t waste a second to mobilize. The union has started a website, www.saveaffinity.org, to collect testimonials from people in the community. Further details on the union’s plan to save the hospital are expected to be announced on Tuesday.
“All the nurses here, all the staff here, we are here to fight for our patients and for the hospital,” West said. “The community needs us here.”
The Ohio Nurses Union has collected more than 2,000 online signatures for their campaign to save Affinity Medical Center in Massillon. At 10am today they will hold a news conference about the campaign. @WEWS pic.twitter.com/vLdwF3AHLp
— Meg Shaw (@MegDShaw) January 9, 2018
City officials along with the chamber of commerce are also working on a plan to stave off the hospital’s closure. With 808 jobs expected to be lost, the financial impact will be far-reaching. There are numerous other businesses that rely on the hospital. The medical center’s residency program will also be severely impacted.
“Going through a residency program and having it close, it’s devastating,” Dr. Seth said. “You moved here from some other area. You have been training under a certain system. You buy a house. You’re 23 years old. Now you have to come home and tell your family that in four weeks, ‘I don’t have a place to operate.’ To me, when you have the hospital and you buy it, you owe it to the community to do everything you can to keep that hospital open. If you are going to close it, give the people some options. Don’t leave them high and dry.”