EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - "It's the heartbeat of the community."
That's how Adrienne Walker refers to the Cleveland Clinic's Huron Hospital. She came here to visit a friend, but relies on it herself for care.
She was among those who couldn't believe the 137 year old hospital was closing in 90 days.
"What's going to happen to the people of East Cleveland, on the east side," she asked. "What about the people who get their medical care here?"
Many of them, the Cleveland Clinic argues, are already turning to other facilities for care. Their research shows that 83 percent of patients from Huron's primary market are choosing other hospitals for inpatient services.
"What we have seen is a very rapid deterioration within the last six months of the volume at Huron Hospital which drove us to a decision at that point," said Clinic CEO & President Dr. Toby Cosgrove.
The population of East Cleveland has shrunk by 34 percent over the last ten years. The lack of inpatient volume has left the hospital less than 60 percent full. That coupled with upkeep of the aging facility provided little promise that the hospital's fortunes would turn around, likely only get worse.
Darlene Brunn lives across the street from the hospital.
"I think it's very wrong, there's too many senior citizens that live in these buildings, that need this place, they need someplace close," she said.
And they will have that Cosgrove argues in the new Cleveland Clinic Huron Community Health Center. An outpatient facility set to open this October on the Euclid Avenue side of the campus that sits on part of the former John D. Rockefeller estate.
"The population is older, it has chronic disease, renal failure, heart failure, diabetes etc. and we're building a facility specifically designed to look after those sets of problems," said Cosgrove.
The Mayor of East Cleveland Gary Norton Jr. said he received word of the closure late last week and expressed immediate concern for his residents.
"We believe that people's lives will be lost as a result of this closure. It's just a matter from certain people's perspective of where people's live are lost," he said. "It is the loss of a lifeline for people who have been a victim of some accident whether it's an automobile accident or a stabbing or a shooting in the departure of the trauma center."
But Clinic officials said there are two expanded emergency rooms within three miles of Huron--University Hospitals ER which sits 1.8 miles away and the Clinic's main campus ER which is 2.6 miles.
That's little comfort said Darlene to her neighbors living in a high rise across the street.
"I feel sorry for a lot of the senior citizens that live in the building, that need someplace close when they have a heart attack," she said.