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Could Summa replace Cleveland Clinic? Fate of Medina Hospital's birthing unit discussed

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The Cleveland Clinic’s decision to close the birthing unit at Medina Hospital on July 1 may have opened the way for another hospital system in Medina County to fill the void.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said at a City Council meeting Monday night that he spoke to Dr. John Surso on March 28 about Summa Health System-Lake Medina’s possible interest in creating a birthing center “for the Medina County residents that were being abandoned by Cleveland Clinic.”

Medina Hospital was a good place to have a baby for many years,” Surso, who is medical director and community liaison at Summa, said Tuesday. “I appreciate the doctors and nurses there, who have been exemplary. But my personal opinion is closing the birthing center is a problem for the families in Medina.”

Surso, who has been a doctor in Medina for 38 years, said patients ages 18 to 80 have talked to him about the impending closing of the birthing unit.

“Those of us committed to caring for the families in Medina County recognize it’s incumbent upon us to seek solutions that are in the best interest of those families,” he said. “A lot of us have been here for a long while.”

He said Summa-Lake Medina, as well as Akron-based Summa Health, is committed to providing care in Medina County and he understands many people believe not having a birthing unit in Medina County leaves a gap in the county’s health care system.

“I would confirm the fact we are assessing the situation and trying to seek solutions,” Surso said. “At this point, I can’t speak to any specific solutions. It’s an emotional situation right now.”

He said he sees there’s a need, recognizes the obligation and is “going down the pathway of assessing those possibilities.”

He said Summa-Lake Medina has much of a birth center’s infrastructure already in place, including labs, a blood bank, imaging, ambulatory surgery, critical care in the emergency room, cancer therapy and cancer radiation.

“We have support systems in place,” Surso said. “Any solution would be piggy-backed off that.”

Hanwell said Surso already has begun discussions with some nurses and doctors at Medina Hospital’s birthing unit.

“(He said he) was also speaking with management of Summa,” the mayor said. “He hoped to form a committee, which he assured me I’d serve on to have further discussion regarding Summa opening such a center.”

Hanwell hasn’t given up trying to persuade Cleveland Clinic, which operates Medina Hospital, from changing its mind.

He said he had a conference call March 28 with Dr. J. Stephen Jones, president of Cleveland Clinic’s regional hospitals.

“We talked for probably 20 to 30 minutes,” Hanwell said. “He understood the community’s concern and the Council’s and administration’s concern. He pretty much told us the decision has been made and there’s no interest in having a public meeting.”

Hanwell said he sent a letter March 30 to Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, laying out various concerns and asking him for reconsideration of closing the birthing unit.

Hanwell said he joined Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township, and state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, in a meeting with Jones on April 3 at the clinic.

“We discussed the concerns and our objections for nearly 90 minutes,” Hanwell said. “We came to the same conclusion — the clinic has no interest in a community meeting and doesn’t have any interest in reconsidering their decision.”

The mayor said he received a letter Monday from Cosgrove indicating that he’s personally monitoring the situation and he wants to “achieve the best results possible.”

Lakewood resident Kevin Young attended Monday’s meeting. He was a spokesman for saving the Lakewood hospital before it was closed by the clinic. He suggested that residents start a petition to support the mayor’s efforts.

Medina school board member Ron Ross, who also spoke at the Council meeting, said the clinic is a “great facility,” but he doesn’t like how Medina has been treated.

“The feeling is we’re getting pushed around,” Ross said. “This is our community. We need to push back. We shouldn’t take this lying down. Let’s not back down to these corporate raiders.”

Council passed a resolution opposing the closing of the birthing unit.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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