Cleveland City Council Safety Committee discusses impact of Huron Hospital closing

CLEVELAND - The city of Cleveland will be joining with East Cleveland in a lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic in an attempt to keep Huron Hospital open.

The Clinic announced last week it was closing the aging East Cleveland hospital because of a steep decline in patient use fueled by a rapidly shrinking east side population.

The Clinic is opening a $25 million community health center in October that will meet the outpatient needs of the community.

The city of Cleveland said that's not enough.

"We have serious issues with regard to trauma delivery in our community, we have serious issues with regard to emergency services," said Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi.

"Now we have additional issues with regard to the impact of a lack of inpatient facilities in that community," he said in announcing the city would join with East Cleveland in seeking an injunction blocking the hospital from closing.

Cleveland City Council's Public Safety Committee met Tuesday to discuss their options. City Safety Director Marty Flask spoke of a similar meeting last October following the Clinic's decision to close Huron's trauma unit. He said at that time Clinic officials were asked more than once if they were going to close Huron.

"No less than 10 times was that question asked or was there a reference to continuing operations of the hospital," said Flask. "They assured all of us that the hospital would not close, the emergency room would continue operations."

EMS Director Edward Eckart said the closing will mean longer ambulance runs, which will mean crews unavailable for other calls at a time when there are fewer crews to begin with because of cutbacks.

"This is a huge problem, it's really taking a safety net that is already stressed given the recent economic difficulties that we've faced and really stressing that to the point where our response times are significantly higher than we would like them to be," he said.

Councilman Mike Polensek said he has spoken with numerous doctors over the course of the past week both in and out of the Cleveland Clinic Health System.

He said the loss of Huron's trauma unit and emergency room will put a greater strain on MetroHealth Medical Center, the impact of which will be felt countywide, he argued.

"There's going to be a meltdown and there's going to be major problems at Metro," he warned.

Beyond that he said other doctors within the Clinic warned him the cuts hadn't stopped.

"The older inner ring hospitals you can expect to see some additional cutbacks in services and programs," said Polensek. "They said, 'get ready it's coming.'"

That's something Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove strongly denied last week in announcing the closing of Huron.

Council said they invited Cosgrove to speak about the decision but no one from the Clinic attended, prompting council to discuss the prospect of subpoenaing officials to appear next time.

"We're talking around Cleveland Clinic but they're not at the table and if we got subpoena power then we need to be talking to the council president," said Councilman Zack Reed. "And see how we can have a legitimate conversation with all parties at the table."

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