Search committee comes up empty on directive to find inpatient provider

WADSWORTH — Summa Health said Friday it is committed to staying at Wadsworth-Rittman Medical Center after a community board's deadline to find an inpatient services provider passed without action.

An 18-month search led by a seven-member committee representing the Wadsworth-Rittman Area Joint Township Hospital District was unsuccessful in finding a match, said hospital district board chairwoman Patty Haskins. The committee had until the end of October to find a new inpatient operator.

As many as 10 health care organizations were contacted, but none chose to move forward with Wadsworth, citing reasons including the current health care climate, market conditions and geographic incompatibility, the hospital district’s lawyers said in a news release.

“Despite the fact that we have been unable to obtain someone to operate a full-service inpatient hospital, we do have a vibrant health center that is providing much-needed services in the Wadsworth area,” Haskins said, referring to Summa's focus on outpatient services at the site.

“We don't have any plans to exit the community at all,” said Ben Sutton, Summa’s senior vice president of strategy and performance management. “We're committed to the Wadsworth community long-term.”

The search started after a February 2017 settlement that ended nearly three years of legal wrangling over whether Summa wrongfully shut down inpatient hospital services in 2014 after acquiring the facility in 2008 for $1.

Per the settlement, the hospital district owns the land the facility is on, valued at $20 million, with Summa leasing the buildings. Its five-year lease term, with $250,000 annual payments, started in 2017. There’s an option to renew the lease for five consecutive two-year terms, for a total of 15 years.

If Summa doesn’t renew the lease, the buildings would revert to the hospital district, which would again search for a new operator for the facility.

Per the settlement, Summa is required to provide emergency room/urgent care, outpatient surgery, primary care, specialty support in cardiology, general surgery, diagnostic imaging, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and outpatient lab services at the facility.

Summa is also required to invest $750,000 per year in capital improvements for each year of its initial five-year lease, for a total of $3.75 million. For each of the five two-year renewals, Summa would be required to invest at least $1.5 million per each two-year term.

Tammy Scarborough, Summa’s president of ambulatory care and clinical services, said Summa has already invested more than $4 million in the facility, including renovating operating rooms, adding four observation beds in the emergency department, adding a weight management institute and expanding and renovating physician practices.

Scarborough also highlighted Summa’s partnership with Community Assessment and Treatment Services, or CATS, which in July opened a 16-bed, inpatient, men-only alcohol and drug treatment center at the Wadsworth facility.

Haskins, who volunteers at the medical center once a week, said she hopes the community appreciates the facility as it currently exists.

"We've been without a full-service hospital for four years,” she said. “However, because of the agreement that we have settled with Summa, we actually do have a vibrant facility still here in Wadsworth.”

 

Beacon Journal writer Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.