COLUMBUS: State Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, and Majority Leader Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, introduced bipartisan legislation this week to try to prevent the closure of Affinity Medical Center in Massillon.

House Bill 462 would create a set of conditions that Quorum Health Corp. must meet before it’s allowed to close the facility.

“Affinity Medical Center has served the people of Massillon for over a century,” West said in a prepared statement. “Closing Affinity would remove a community cornerstone, devastate Stark County’s medical system and eliminate over 1,000 jobs. We cannot allow this to happen, and House Bill 462 can help prevent a closure.”

The bill would require any for-profit hospital in Stark County to prove financial hardship, make at least three attempts to sell the facility and create a plan to transfer the hospital’s patients and employees to another facility within 15 miles. It also would require a nine-month transition period between the public announcement of intent to close and final closure.

“Creating a set of conditions that must be met for closure will force a real conversation about whether everything possible has been done to save Affinity,” West said.

Affinity’s corporate owner stunned the Stark County community last week when it announced the hospital will end clinical operations in February and be shuttered for good in March.

Tennessee-based Quorum said it failed to find a buyer for the hospital, which it said has lost money in each of the last six years.

However, officials from at least two area hospital systems — Aultman Health Foundation and the Cleveland Clinic — said they were unaware of Quorum’s plans to sell or close Affinity until last week’s announcement.

An Affinity spokesperson didn’t respond to a request via email Friday for comment.

In a prepared statement Friday, Reginald Fields, spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association, criticized Quorum’s plans to shutter the hospital with a month’s notice and voiced support for House Bill 462.

“While we understand this decision is being attributed to financial pressures, the OSMA is unsettled by the extremely brief period before the facility is scheduled to be shuttered,” he said. “We share the trepidation expressed by the over 200 physicians affiliated with Affinity and other health-care professionals worried for the well-being of their patients and the community at-large.

“The OSMA supports calls from medical professionals and elected leaders to allow additional time to evaluate alternate solutions that may keep the hospital open or, at the very least, allow for an appropriate period for the community to transition to other accessible health-care options in the area.”

Nurses at Affinity Medical Center rallied outside the Massillon hospital Tuesday morning to seek public support to keep the facility from closing.

Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, a registered nurse, has said she asked Quorum to keep the hospital open past the announced deadline but the company said no.

She has been urging the public to make telephone calls and write letters to put pressure to keep Affinity open. The 156-bed acute-care facility has about 800 employees.