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Affinity Medical Center in Massillon could be re-open during pandemic

Posted at 6:17 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 20:23:02-04

MASSILLON, Ohio — Affinity Medical Center, which closed suddenly in 2018, could be re-opened temporarily if the space is needed to treat coronavirus patients during the pandemic.

Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, who is also a nurse, said the city acquired the hospital to help control its destiny.

Catazaro-Perry recently notified state and local officials, as well healthcare systems in Stark County, of her willingness to open up the building if needed. The mayor, who once worked at Affinity, estimated there's room for about 180 beds.

"It's actually still in good condition. We've maintained it very well since we acquired it," Catazaro-Perry said. "We just want to make sure everyone knew that it was an offering by the city to be utilized in case it was needed."

It's the type of large medical space that Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton said could be used during an expected surge of COVID-19 cases in April or May.

"We happen to have in our state existing structures. We have hospitals that are no longer in business, but those buildings are being looked at. We have dorms that are empty," Acton said during a briefing last Friday.

In Summit County, officials are working to identify vacant buildings or community centers that could be transformed into additional sites for coronavirus patients on the road to recovery.

Commissioner of Summit County Public Health Donna Skoda said the county would still need to acquire resources like medical equipment and beds, but the idea would be to set up the locations for community-based healthcare.

"What happens is there are individuals that will become ill, will need to be hospitalized and then will need a lower level of care," Skoda said. "We're really trying to identify places were individuals can stay safely while they finish their recuperation."

Skoda is not naming possible sites, but said one location with 18 beds has been identified as a possibility.

"We're looking at anything. Anything goes," she said.

Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital closed inpatient units in 2014. It was renamed Summa Health Wadsworth-Rittman Medical Center. According to a Summa spokesperson, no decision has been made regarding use of the former inpatient units.

Wadsworth Mayor Robin Laubaugh said the city does not have the ability to direct the operation or usage of the facility, but said it's a valuable resource at a time like this.

"We do know that much planning is taking place around the state to accommodate this need for extra hospital beds. The health community is working together and is well aware of opportunities, including the Wadsworth-Rittman facility, for space," Laubaugh said.

In Akron, about one-third of the St. Thomas Hospital building, also owned by Summa Health, is not being used. Summa plans to vacate the building by 2022. A $60 million project will move services to a new building or renovated portions of Summa Akron City Hospital.

Summa declined to say whether unused parts of St. Thomas Hospital could be used for patient care during the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement to News 5, the healthcare organization said its implementing plans across the system to accommodate an expected surge.

"We are evaluating all options and are working with our regional health system partners to ensure our communities have enough capacity," the statement read.