Cleveland Clinic Akron General’s long-awaited new Emergency Department is getting the finishing touches before it officially opens later this month.

The $49 million project — nearly three years in the making — involved building a new structure from the ground up directly across from the existing emergency room on Akron General’s main downtown Akron campus.

The new ER will take patients at 7 a.m. July 31. All existing patients who are in the old ER at that time will stay there and be treated by a full emergency department staff until they are released or admitted to the hospital, officials said. No patients will be transferred to the new ER.

The 67,000-square-feet new facility is three times as large as the old department.

The new ER is “part of the commitment Cleveland Clinic has made to the Akron community,” said Dr. Brian Harte, Akron General president. The existing emergency room is dated and was renovated as much as possible, but it was time to offer a new, expanded facility with state-of-the art equipment, he said.

The new ER is part of the pledge from the Cleveland Clinic in 2015 when it first became a minority owner and eventually owner of Akron General.

The new ER will have its own 40-spot parking lot for patients. Currently, patients or their families must park in the main parking deck. There also is a driveway in front of the facility for drop-offs and valet parking. A separate driveway and entryway is provided in the heated bay for ambulances. The new area can fit six ambulances, compared to four now, with room for more in the driveway.

The new facility includes 60 care areas for patients — up from 37 — as well as two trauma bays, a dedicated private exam room for sexual assault victims, a new CT scan machine and X-ray machines and larger treatment areas for minor and major injuries, said Dr. Steve Brooks, Akron General’s interim chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The new ER is designed to see 65,000 to 70,000 patients a year.

In 2017, the main campus ER saw just over 50,000 patients.

“Our goal is turn these patients around quicker and more efficiently,” Brooks said.

Patients will first be seen in a “care initiation room” to see a provider. The design of the new ER is set up so once a patient is seen, they never go back out to the original waiting room, instead flowing through to other rooms, such as an internal waiting area or the next exam room, Brooks said.

The new unit also has a separate behavioral health unit with five dedicated rooms monitored and designed for patients who may be a threat to themselves. Garage doors can be lowered to hide any equipment and there are no areas where patients could strangle themselves. For instance, special handles on doors and cabinets do not have loops and a sink in the hallway of the unit does not have a traditional faucet head.

The trauma rooms and resuscitation rooms in the new ER can function as operating rooms, if needed, and the rooms are all connected to allow a team to move from patient to patient in a mass-casualty situation, Harte said.

New to the ER is a dedicated exam room with its own bathroom and shower for Akron General’s PATH (Providing Access to Healing) program, in which specially trained registered nurses conduct medical examinations with sexual assault and domestic violence victims. The program does not have a dedicated room in the existing ER, said Brooks. The program received state capital funding to help create the separate exam room, Harte said.

The second floor of the new ER building houses a rapid observation unit with beds for patients who will not be admitted to the hospital, but need to be observed after coming to the ER, said Harte. A new glass walkway across the street to the hospital provides direct access from the ER to take patients to operating rooms and the main hospital, he said.

On top of the new building is a new helipad. The existing helipad on the roof of the main hospital also will remain, Brooks said.

Harte said the hospital hasn’t determined how the existing emergency department space will be used after the move.

The new ER is on land that used to house two older buildings used for laundry and research, both of which have been relocated.

“As medical capabilities have evolved, you need more space and a more patient-centered environment,” Harte said of the new ER.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

AKRON: Cleveland Clinic Akron General will host a community open house to show off its new state-of-the-art emergency department.

The free event will be held on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1 Akron General Ave. in Akron. The new $49.3 million building more than triples the size of its existing emergency department and will enhance the patient experience.

Tour the new emergency department, visit health information tables, have your blood pressure checked, enter your name to win a new Trek 7-speed mountain bike and helmet, and enjoy light refreshments.

Complimentary parking will be available in the Ambulatory Care Center parking garage, building #303. The emergency department will open to new patients at 7 a.m. on July 31. For more information, visit akrongeneral.org/ED.

The city is ready to sell Rolling Acres for less than $10,000 an acre plus tax breaks to a mystery developer promising a yet-to-be-disclosed $100 million development generating $30 million in payroll.

In less than a month, Mayor Dan Horrigan’s administration has gone from saying there’s no developer in mind for the old Rolling Acres mall site to asking City Council through legislation introduced Monday to approve a contract to sell nearly 67 acres of publicly owned land on the site for $600,000 to Akron Romig Road LLC, a company incorporated in Delaware, which requires little information about who’s behind business startups.

City Council 12-1 voted to authorize the sale Monday after electing to suspend parliamentary rules that bar a same-day vote. Councilman Zack Milkovich of Ward 10 was the lone no vote. The development is in Ward 9, which includes Kenmore. But the developer, and nature of the business that will be built, are not being disclosed at this time.

“When the developer is in a position to announce a tenant for the new $100 million development, we will happily share that information,” said Ellen Lander Nischt, who told the Akron Beacon Journal last month that the city’s economic development team did not have a specific developer in mind for what was shaping up at the time to be new tax incentives on the dilapidated property.

Jason Segedy, the mayor’s director of Urban Planning and Development, unveiled a redevelopment strategy for the 122 acres of mostly dead space around the old mall at a Planning Commission meeting last month. The proposal, which was later presented to City Council as a blueprint for development, includes new tax breaks that would allow developers who, instead of paying taxes, would get something like a rebate to cover loans for the new construction.

After a protracted legal dispute, the city acquired Rolling Acres in 2016 and quickly began tearing down the main portions of the mall. Eslich Wrecking of Louisville was paid $300,000 for the demolition, which ultimately cost $450,000 and was completed last year.

The Rolling Acres site has fallen into disrepair since the mall closed in 2008. Neighboring property owners have complained of dirt bikes and drag races in the parking lot, which is being overtaken in parts by weeds.

The sale

Within five days of the proposed sale, which council would allow Horrigan to make through the legislation presented Monday, Akron Romig Road LLC would deposit $20,000 in earnest money in an interest-bearing, New York bank account. That money would help guarantee that the developer follows through with the purchase of the property and the construction of a 600,000-square-foot commercial facility.

Akron Romig Road LLC will have up to 180 days after a contract is signed with the city to inspect the property and make a final determination about moving forward with the development, according to the tentative 12-page contract attached to the four-page piece of legislation Horrigan presented to council.

City fund

Aside from giving the mayor the authority to sell the property, the legislation approved Monday would allow the city to enter a tax increment financing agreement with the developer. Under the arrangement, the developer or new property owner would make payments instead of taxes. The city would create a fund to collect those payments, which would be set aside by the county fiscal office.

The fund could then be used to improve the surrounding streets, curbs, water or sewer lines and other public infrastructure. Or, the city can send the payments back to the developer, who will likely take out loans to get the property ready for a new tenant.

Who that tenant might be is also a mystery at this point.

Nischt said the additional $30 million in taxable payroll promised by the developer does not include construction jobs. But she would not say if the developer has described the type of business that will move into the space.

“It’s a rare occurrence to be a part of something with such potential, to positively impact our community,” said chief of staff James Hardy, who expects 500 new jobs at the facility. “The jobs and income taxes generated by this project would provide a ladder of opportunity for our residents and support for central city services that benefit all our neighborhoods.”

Business reaction

Nearby property owners, who own the former mall department stores and operate them as separate businesses, said they didn’t know anything about the sale.

“We had heard rumors from everybody including the UPS guy,” said Dan O’Connor, president of Pinnacle Recycling, which has occupied the former Sears Department store for seven years. “I don’t know anything. There’s been a lot of speculation about this, that and whatever.”

George Georgiadis, whose Grandview Holdings has owned the former Macy’s department store since 2009, has had his property listed for sale for several years.

Georgiadis said he has been trying to find out the city’s plans for the site.

“Whatever it is, they have gone to great lengths to keep it under wraps,” he said.

While he’s unsure what the future holds for the new property owner, Georgiadis said it’s promising if there will be some activity.

Georgiadis said he had a very informal inquiry from the city awhile ago asking if his property was for sale, but beyond that, he has not heard anything or had any offers.

He credits Horrigan for his swift action in acquiring the property after it languished for many years and demolishing it quickly.

“I was surprised and impressed with the speed which the city did to get the situation under control,” he said. “The mayor did exactly what he said he was going to do and that was impressive.”

Redeveloping the property is “better for the city as a whole,” Georgiadis said.

Since the demolition, the former department stores now stand alone.

Reach Betty Lin-Fisher at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty. Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or [email protected]. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.

The Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority has hired a Northeast Ohio native as its new executive director.

Brian M. Gage of Houston will take over from Tony O’Leary, who will be retiring after leading the organization for 25 years.

Gage, 44, will begin Aug. 13. He is currently senior policy adviser for the Houston Housing Authority. He was appointed to that position in 2012.

Gage was born in Cleveland, grew up in Parma and went to St. Francis de Sales in Parma for elementary school and St. Edward in Lakewood for high school.

Prior to going to Houston, Gage spent 10 years with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) both in Cleveland and in Washington, D.C.

He earned his bachelor of arts in political science at Cleveland State University. He also earned a master of public administration from the Levin College of Urban Affairs and a juris doctor from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, both schools at Cleveland State.

While at HUD, Gage contributed to regulatory reform efforts, provided technical assistance to housing agencies throughout the country and coordinated hurricane relief services in Texas.

He began his housing career as a presidential management fellow for HUD serving as a liaison to Congress on housing-related issues. He is a frequent speaker at national housing conferences and a member of several national housing organizations, with expertise in mixed housing finance and the redevelopment of public housing properties.

“I look forward to returning to Northeastern Ohio where my public service career began. I am truly excited to join AMHA and continue the legacy of success in addressing the housing needs of the community,” Gage said in a news release.

AMHA Board Chair John C. Fickes said: “The board is very pleased to bring to our authority a person of Brian Gage’s talent and experience. We believe that as AMHA’s new executive director, Brian will sustain our long record of success in providing affordable housing and services to the greater Akron community. Brian was selected from a group of excellent candidates. We look forward to welcoming Brian and his family back to Northeast Ohio and to AMHA.”

O’Leary, 68, will stay on for a few weeks to transition when Gage arrives. O’Leary’s original retirement date was June 1, but he agreed to stay on as the board was completing its search for his replacement.

AMHA was founded 80 years ago as a public entity to provide affordable housing and social services to low-income residents throughout Summit County. The agency serves more than 22,000 people who qualify for federal housing assistance. AMHA is nationally recognized as a high performing agency and for its development of innovative programs for public housing residents.

Staff writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

An Akron-area competitive dragon boat racing team, completely made up of breast cancer survivors, placed third in the world in Florence, Italy.

The Dragon Dream Team finished first among United States contenders and third among 124 teams worldwide at the international competition.

Seconds separated the top five finishers and tenths of a second separated the top finishers.

The Dragon Dream Team USA Akron finished its final 500-meter race in 2 minutes, 21.69 seconds. The Can Survive team from New Zealand finished second with a time of 2:21.28. The Knot a Breast team from Hamilton, Ontario, won the event with a time of 2:20.33.

All teams had raced a total of four heats over a two-day period on July 7 and 8.

Though placing in the final race was an important achievement, winning was not the point of the competition, said Amy Synk, president of the Dragon Dream Team.

Synk is a breast cancer survivor of seven years after having a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“Our winning is an absolutely extraordinary achievement, but it is the overcoming of a breast cancer diagnosis that is our true victory,” said Synk of Medina, a member of the team for four years. “Being fierce in the face of fear is the definition of the Dragon Dream Team.”

In fact, it was never announced publicly how the top five teams placed at the festival, said Synk. After the final race, paddlers take off their team jerseys and all put on the same shirt to participate in a flower ceremony to honor those who have died from breast cancer.

The Portage Lakes-based Dragon Dream Team sent two teams with 45 of its 83 members to Florence for the 2018 International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Dragon Boat Festival.

A record 4,000 paddlers representing every continent raced in the dragon boating event. Dragon boating is a 2,000-year-old Chinese practice that involves 20 teammates paddling a 40-foot dragon-shaped boat while a drummer sits in the front and plays a beat to keep the team in sync. Akron’s team formed in 2007, 11 years after the first all-breast cancer survivor dragon boat team began in the mid-1990s when researchers found that upper body exercise is beneficial to patients.

Team comes together

The Akron-area team practices three times a week.

The team has come so far from the first such international event it participated in 2010, when it finished near the bottom of nearly 80 teams, said Barb Fox of Randolph Township, co-team operations manager, a founding member of the team and 12-year-cancer survivor. In 2014, the team placed 39th out of 102 teams at the races in Sarasota, Fla.

“The team is about paddling together, the emotional strength you get from one another. It’s about the camaraderie,” Fox said. “It will help our outreach as we support each other in life after breast cancer.”

The team raises money and provides outreach through its Boatloads of Hope. The program gives local hospitals, doctors’ offices and cancer centers boxes for patients containing a pashmina shawl and a note from the team saying they represent more than 100 years of survivorship.

This year, 300 shawls have been distributed.

The team has many survivors but has also lost a member every year Synk has participated. One team member had to pull out of the Italy race recently because her cancer recurred. The team got its strength from her and dedicated its races to her, Synk said.

The team will host its sixth-annual Dragons on the Lake Dragon Boat Festival at the Portage Lakes State Park on July 28. More than 30 teams are expected for the races. A gala is also held in the spring. Both are the main team fundraisers. For more information, go to http://www.dragonsonthelake.com.

Triumphant return

When the first group of team members arrived at the Akron-Canton Airport at midnight Tuesday, they were surprised by other teammates and family members who made a pink oar arch for the paddlers to walk through.

Carolyn Bernstorf of Wadsworth Township couldn’t believe her teammates surprised them at midnight.

Bernstorf, a team member for nine years and 13-year cancer survivor, said she can hardly describe the feelings she had as she and her teammates finished their final race in Italy.

“It was absolutely something I’ll just never ever forget. I’m just still even now so emotional, and I had tears of happiness when the race was over and we were crying,” Bernstorf said.

Bernstorf said she knew the team was good and they had progressed a lot since Sarasota four years ago. But she and other team members thought they’d finish in the top 15.

But Bernstorf’s husband, Allen, who has served as the team’s coach since 2014, had other goals. He just didn’t tell the team members so they wouldn’t feel pressured. (The team had two teams in Italy, with the “A” team being the more experienced or stronger paddlers.)

“My goal was top 10,” said Allen Bernstorf, a former soccer coach. “The only question in my mind was the level of competition we were going to meet.”

When he started coaching in 2014, it took awhile to convince the team members that they needed more endurance training. That training paid off.

He said he’s inspired by his athletes. The average age of his team is typically around 60. The oldest team member on Akron’s winning team was 81-year-old drummer Pat Donnelly of Akron. She also was the oldest U.S. participant.

Staff writer Katie Byard contributed to this report and was a member of the Dragon Dream Team B team. Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

The J.M. Smucker Co. is getting out of the U.S. baking business.

The Orrville food company announced the signing of a definitive agreement to sell its U.S. baking business — which includes such iconic brands as Pillsbury and Hungry Jack — to Brynwood Partners IVV LP and Brynwood Partners VIII LP in a transaction valued at $375 million. The companies are subsidiaries of Brynwood Partners.

The transaction primarily encompasses products sold in U.S. retail channels under the Pillsbury, Martha White, Hungry Jack, White Lily and Jim Dandy brands, along with all relevant trademarks and licensing agreements, and the company’s manufacturing facility in Toledo.

Smucker, which makes jellies, baking goods, coffee and pet food, employs about 7,000 people, including 1,300 in Orrville.

The U.S. baking business generated net sales of about $370 million for the company’s fiscal year ended April 30, which were primarily reported in its U.S. Retail Consumer Foods segment. The transaction does not include Smucker’s baking business in Canada.

“The divestiture reflects our strategy to further focus our portfolio and develop a stronger presence in pet food, coffee, and snacking — all large, growing categories with sustainable growth projections,” Mark Smucker, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “Pillsbury, Martha White, and Hungry Jack remain iconic brands and, although they no longer align with our strategic priorities, we are confident they will be nurtured at Brynwood. While the decision to divest these brands was difficult, it underscores our commitment to allocating resources toward those areas of the business critical to our growth.”

Smucker has owned the Pillsbury and Hungry Jack brand since 2004, when it acquired those and other brands in a $840 million deal that at the time nearly doubled Smucker’s revenues and expanded its reach for grocery shoppers.

The divestiture of the U.S. baking business is not a surprise. The company announced plans in April to explore the divestiture.

Greenwich, Conn.-based Brynwood Partners describes itself on its website as a lower middle market buyout fund that acquires consumer product companies. Established in 1984, “the managing partners of Brynwood Partners have extensive operating experience, as CEOs and CFOs of both public and private companies, which allows the firm to acquire both performing and underperforming businesses and corporate orphan brands with or without management teams. Brynwood Partners will only target investment opportunities where it can leverage the operational expertise of its managing partners to create significant shareholder value.”

The partners have more than $1.4 billion of assets under management.

Smucker said it expects the divestiture “to be dilutive to its adjusted earnings per share by 25 to 30 cents on a full-year basis, reflecting foregone profit related to the U.S. baking business, before factoring in any potential benefit from the use of proceeds from the sale. However, the company expects the net impact of the divestiture to be only slightly dilutive to its fiscal 2019 adjusted earnings per share, as foregone profit for the remainder of the fiscal year is expected to be mostly offset by an anticipated one-time gain on divestiture. This expectation also excludes any potential benefit from the use of proceeds from the sale. The company will further discuss the transaction’s anticipated impact on its fiscal 2019 outlook when it releases its fiscal 2019 first quarter results in August,” the company said in a statement.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of the company’s 2019 fiscal year, subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of required regulatory approvals.

Staff writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter.

Income-eligible Summit County residents can get aid to pay for their summer electric cooling bills.

Akron Summit Community Action Inc. is operating the 2018 Summer Crisis Program (SCP) to help income-eligible Summit County residents stay cool during the hot summer months. The Summer Crisis Program, which started July 1, runs through Aug. 31.

The program provides assistance to low-income households with an elderly member (60 years or older), or households that can provide physician documentation that cooling assistance is needed for a household member’s chronic health condition.

Eligible households can receive up to $300 to assist in the payment of an electric bill.

This year, the program will also provide assistance of up to $500 to customers of unregulated utilities such as electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, like Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson.

To be eligible for assistance, households must have gross annual income at or below 175 percent of the 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines. Households may receive assistance one time during the program. Customers are eligible if their total household income is at or below 175 percent of the 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For example, a family of four can have an annual income of $43,925.

Eligible Summit County residents can schedule an appointment by calling the toll-free appointment line at 866-504-7400. Additionally, operators are available between 10 a.m. and noon as well as 2 and 4 p.m.

Residents who are enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus Program (PIPP Plus) are not eligible for bill payment assistance through the Summer Crisis Program but are encouraged to work with Akron Summit Community Action to identify other opportunities for assistance.

Appointments will be scheduled Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bring all required documentation to your appointment.

By Betty Lin-Fisher

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com

Dominion Energy Ohio’s monthly natural gas price for residential customers who are on the Standard Choice Offer (SCO) is going up slightly for July, but is exactly the same price as a year ago.

Effective July 16, the SCO will be $3.07 per thousand cubic feet (mcf). That’s 12 cents or 4 percent higher than the June rate of $2.95/mcf. The price was exact the same last July.

The average residential customer’s bill for July $35.87, up 50 cents, or 1.4 percent, from $35.37 in July 2017.

All customers pay a fixed $28.14 for the basic monthly charge. Customers also pay a usage-based charge to transport the gas to the home, and gross-receipts tax. That charge is currently 33 cents/mcf.

Consumer columnist Betty Lin-Fisher continues to recommend the SCO. To read a step-by-step guide, go to http://www.ohio.com/betty

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

One year ago, Summa Health was in the middle of its crisis.

Its longstanding emergency medicine residency training program was about to end on July 1 after its national accreditation was revoked. That was six months after the abrupt changeover in Summa’s emergency room physician staffing, followed by the resignation of then-CEO Dr. Thomas Malone amid demands by hundreds of doctors for a change in leadership.

The Akron-based health system was in a financial free-fall, with its interim President and CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny citing a $30 million loss and predicting a staggering $60 million loss by the end of the year. That was a stark difference from Summa’s historical $30 million profit levels. Deveny had also just announced a layoff of 150 people and said 150 jobs wouldn’t be filled.

This July, Deveny said things are on the slight upswing, but there are still rough waters ahead. Summa ended 2017 with a $28 million loss. Earlier this week, Deveny reported to his 7,000 staff members that through May, Summa is showing a year-to-date operating income of $7.2 million, or a positive operating margin of 1.3 percent. That exceeds Summa’s original budgeted operating margin of $6.1 million.

And Deveny has agreed to stay on as interim leader for another year, saying his work is not done.

His message now is in stark contrast to a year ago, when he said finances needed to improve — or “I can assure you the name on our badges will no longer say Summa Health, our employees at all levels of the organization will see unprecedented change, and our independent physicians will be faced with the reality of what it means to practice in a community that no longer has an independent, local option for them.”

Reflecting on that statement, Deveny said in an interview last week: “That was a public challenge; a year ago we were in a pretty dire situation.

“What you saw was people, rather than becoming victims, became architects and drove the performance and owned the issues. We’re in a better situation,” he said.

Still, different challenges abound.

“The fact is, people aren’t moving to Akron. We aren’t seeing jobs, and [changes] in commercial insurance still affect us. We have to evolve as the community evolves. That’s playing out, and we’re trying to be pretty public and transparent about how we do that,” Deveny said.

Shortly after he arrived in March 2017, Deveny began taping a two-minute video message that gets sent out to employees every Friday. Deveny said his “Cliff Notes” are a way to talk about important topics and offer kudos to employees because “there was a lot of focus on the negatives.”

The videocast gets the most views of any Summa internal communication, with 1,500 to 2,000 views weekly.

The videos are an excellent way to engage employees, said J.B. Silvers, health finance professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

“Cliff’s a smart guy, and he knows the people and knows how to get the organization to focus,” said Silvers, a former board member of Summa’s SummaCare Insurance.

Regaining trust

Deveny knows Summa has an uphill battle. He knew he had to mend relationships with Summa doctors and independent doctors, who were steering patients away from the hospital system amid worries of quality. He had to convince community leaders that the hospital was here to stay and wouldn’t be a target of a sale or takeover. And he had to convince community members to once again trust Summa for their health care needs.

“This is a journey to re-engage people one by one,” Deveny said.

An important group to re-engage is the independent physicians in Akron, said Tom Campanella, director of the health care MBA program and a professor of health economics at Baldwin Wallace University. Akron has an unusually large number of independent physician practices.

‘Improved’ relationship

Things have gotten much better, said Dr. Kevin Mineo, chairman of the board of Unity Health Network, one of the largest independent physician groups in the Akron area.

“The relationship we’ve had with Summa has been greatly improved,” he said. “We’ve been very happy to see all the positive steps they’ve put forth,” he said.

Still, there are some concerns, Mineo said, referring to a recent wrongful death lawsuit filed against the hospital and the company running its emergency room in a case of a man who came into the Barberton emergency room last August. Plaintiffs allege the patient was never seen by an attending physician after a stroke and heart attack.

Deveny agreed that relationships with independent doctors are better and still developing.

“There’s clinical trust,” he said.

Soon after he arrived last year, Deveny also worked to end an ugly three-year court battle with Western Reserve Hospital, a physician-owned hospital in Cuyahoga Falls with ties to Summa (several of Unity’s doctors are also investors in Western Reserve Hospital). In November, the two sides settled their differences.

Mineo said with Deveny, “there’s definitely been a big cultural shift the other direction in a much more positive way.”

Deveny decided to renew his contract for another year because “it is personal to make sure this organization thrives and sustains itself.”

“Every week I come back, I feel we are making a significant amount of progress. This organization is near and dear to me, not only professionally but the care of my family. My kids were born here; I’m invested in this company.”

Deveny grew up in Akron, graduated from Firestone High School and spent about 20 years of his career at Summa as an OB-GYN and administrator before leaving in 2011.

He calls himself an unintentional leader and wasn’t looking to be interim Summa CEO when he got a phone call last year.

But he’s proud of the way people have rallied.

“We’ve gotten through a lot of turmoil and we continue to have turmoil. People are stepping up, solving problems,” he said.

Said Campanella: “You need to have the right culture in regards to creating the type of energy and engagement from employees at all levels. That culture starts at the top. It starts with recognition of being a leader and facilitating team efforts. I think that’s what they feel they have in Cliff.”

Diverse portfolio

Campanella said it’s good that Summa has diversity in its health system, including a 25-year-old health insurance company and a growing home-health care business.

Deveny said the home-health care business is growing at a time when national trends show inpatient and outpatient volumes decreasing with advancements in care.

Deveny also said the goal of a recently named external firm looking at performance efficiencies is to get approximately $40 million in additional improvement through initiatives “such as more efficient care for our patients and members, streamlining supply chain, improving revenue cycle and reducing pharmacy costs for both Summa and SummaCare.”

Deveny said he does not expect any large-scale layoffs, saying there are always some individual positions that are cut and the health system has 270 open positions and is hiring.

“We’ve now got to continue to grow the revenue. No successful company makes it by just cutting expenses,” he said.

Summa also needs to get its bond rating back up. In November, it was downgraded $350 million of debt from Baa1 to Baa2. The bond rating carries a “moderate risk” for investors, according to Moody’s Investor Services. In its report explaining the downgrade, Moody’s blamed a decline in patients seeking care at Summa as contributing to operating losses last year. Summa said it hoped to regain its bond rating within 24 months.

Silvers said its growing profit margin is within striking distance. The average for the next similar level is 2 percent to 2.9 percent. Summa is at 1.3 percent.

Financial turnarounds don’t happen quickly, said Silvers. In a study he conducted, it took two to three years for a turnaround to happen for troubled hospitals.

When asked what a success would mean for Summa, remaining independent or being sold, Campanella said it’s a matter of perspective.

“I personally think Summa has the ability to stay independent. They may have to establish a collaborative relationship similar to what they have with [minority owner] Mercy in addition to physicians in the area.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all. The answer is not always get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

 

Summa Health’s new West Tower on its Akron City Hospital campus is taking significant shape overlooking the state Route 8 and East Market Street corridor near downtown Akron.

The $220 million, seven-story building — which will also become the health system’s new front door — is the centerpiece of the $270 million first part of a two-phase project over the next six or seven years. Other Phase 1 projects include a makeover at Barberton Hospital’s campus and a new proposed medical office in Kent. Phase 2 will include renovations to the departments moving to the new building, making upgrades and creating single-patient rooms, said Ed Friedl, Summa vice president of construction and property management. The overall project is expected to cost $350 million.

Dr. Cliff Deveny, Summa interim president and CEO, has described the rise of the new tower as a metaphor for “the rebirth of Summa Health System,” which has had a tumultuous year and a half after abrupt changes to its emergency room staffing, ousting of its former CEO and subsequent loss of its emergency medicine residency program.

The tower was designed by Hasenstab Architects and Perspectus Architecture.

When the new 343,000-square-foot space is complete by next summer, the tower will feature private patient rooms; expanded surgery suites; two floors dedicated to labor and delivery services; a breast center; a multipurpose conference center and two floors of private medical surgery patient rooms.

The building’s “front door” will move from Arch Street to Forge Street.

Drivers will be able to drop off patients or their cars on a circular loop — which runs off North Forge at North Adolph — for access to the new main hospital entrance, the emergency room or the North Adolph parking deck. That will become the hospital’s main parking deck, although all other hospital decks and the current “main entrance” to the hospital on Arch Street will remain open, Friedl said. There is no parking directly at the front door, although there will be valet services, he said.

Creating a new and distinct front door is needed, Friedl said.

“If you said ‘Go to the main entrance’ and didn’t know Akron, where would you go?” Friedl asked. “If you Google it, it takes you to the center of the hospital.”

Once the structure is complete, patients will be able to see and access the main entrance from state Route 8 with easy signage, he said.

Night view

A distinguishing feature on the new building will be a back-lit screen wall facing Route 8, which will be able to glow in the evening. Friedl said the color will mostly be white, though he’s already fielded questions about other colors.

“It’ll be a beacon of light when you go up and down Route 8,” he said.

The exterior front of the new tower will be a modern style, featuring mainly glass and textured gray metal panels. The back of the facility will blend the hospital’s past with the future, using some terra-cotta brick that is seen on many of the existing older buildings on the City Hospital campus.

A covered entrance will protect the visitors from rain and snow. Inside the front door, patients will find a two-story atrium with a grand staircase, reception desk and a long, connecting curved corridor that mimics the curve of the building’s exterior. Pre-admission testing, Summa’s breast health center and a gift shop will also be based on the same level, which Summa refers to as its ground floor.

Bridges will connect the new West Tower to the old campus and from the Adolph parking deck.

The construction, which began in May 2017, also incorporates more than $100 million in local trade labor, including $70 million for the West Tower project, Friedl said.

The new tower includes an increase by 30 percent for facilities dedicated to expectant mothers, labor and delivery and postpartum care, Friedl said. That’s because when women are in the hospital to have a baby, it’s one of the happiest times a person wants to be at the hospital. The hospital is also expecting a 30 percent growth in this area, he said.

“The mother also often makes decisions on which facility to go to, so once they’re here, they often will stay here” for future services, he said.

Floor plan

Here is what will be on the floors of the West Tower:

• Ground floor/Street level: Registration, Women’s Breast Center (moving from Hamlin Pavilion with all new imaging equipment, such as MRI and mammogram machines), pre-admission testing, Aladdin’s Restaurant, relocated gift shop, conference center and art gallery.

• First floor: Same-day surgery and expansion of existing general surgery area by eight new operating rooms.

• Second floor: Labor and delivery, including 18 labor and delivery rooms (four rooms with birthing tubs, up from one now); nine ante-partum rooms (for high-risk pregnancies before labor); 10 triage rooms; three C-section rooms and a 24-bed neonatal intensive care.

• Third floor: Mechanical floor — heating and cooling equipment, generators.

• Fourth floor: 36 new mother/baby in-patient rooms, along with a newborn nursery.

• Fifth and sixth floors: Each floor will have 36 private patient medical surgery rooms.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Summa Health will bring in an outside firm that specializes in performance improvement and corporate finance, but its leader said that’s not a sign of financial troubles.

Interim President and CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny sent a memo to the health-care provider’s roughly 7,000 employees Monday. Deveny alerted employees that the firm, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) and its managing partner, Richard Cascio, or his colleagues may contact them during the 120-day contract.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Deveny said there is nothing unusual about the firm coming in to evaluate. Summa has undergone a financial performance improvement project every year since 2013, when it entered into a 10-year agreement for Cincinnati-based Mercy Health to be its minority partner, Deveny said.

Last year, Summa invited Mercy to perform the audit, he said, and the Summa board decided to ask A&M to do it this year.

“This is just a board-directed continuation. It was not asked for by one party or another,” Deveny said, referring to Summa and Mercy. “This is to keep the pedal to the metal and continue to have a sustainable performance.

“At the end of the day, this health system needs to be in Akron to serve the needs of the community.”

In his memo, Deveny shared that “we have made a great deal of progress this year throughout Summa Health, but there still is a lot more work to do.”

There has been significant financial progress in the last 12 months, he said.

Current results through May show a year-to-date operating income of $7.2 million, or a positive operating margin of 1.3 percent. That exceeds Summa’s original budgeted operating margin of $6.1 million.

“To put this into greater perspective, for the same time period in 2017, Summa Health lost $31 million for an operating margin of negative 5.8 percent. It should be noted that this year’s performance has been bolstered by one-time gains that we don’t expect to receive again, however, we should all be very proud of this improvement,” Deveny said.

“At the same time, despite this better financial performance, the reality is we still continue to face extreme downward pressure on revenues and upward pressure on expenses,” he wrote in the memo.

The goal is to achieve approximately $40 million in additional improvement through initiatives “such as more efficient care for our patients and members, streamlining supply chain, improving revenue cycle and reducing pharmacy costs for both Summa and SummaCare.”

Deveny was hired as Summa’s interim president and chief executive officer last March following the resignation of CEO Dr. Thomas Malone amid demands by hundreds of doctors for a change in leadership. The situation was exacerbated with the abrupt changeover in Summa’s emergency room physician staffing in January 2017 and the subsequent loss of accreditation to train emergency medicine resident physicians.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Akron Children’s Hospital once again ranked in the top 50 nationally in several of its pediatric specialties, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018-2019 Best Children’s Hospitals.

The rankings, released Tuesday, listed Children’s as 41st in pediatric urology, 44th in pediatric orthopedics, 44th in pediatric neurology/neurosurgery and 44th in neonatology.

The new rankings highlight the top 50 children’s hospitals in 10 pediatric specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and urology.

Children’s Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Lyden said the hospital is always pleased to receive external recognition of the quality of its programs.

“Whether or not we are ranked does not impact the tremendous effort we invest in maximizing quality and outcomes across a wide spectrum of areas, and that is a priority that comes from the very top with our board of directors,” Lyden said. “Our day-to-day work is focused on delivering the highest quality care for our patients so honors like this are nice reminders that we are on the right path.”

Last year, the hospital ranked in two of its specialties, although it did have higher rankings in those areas — 30th in pediatric urology (41st this year) and 35th in neonatology (44th this year).

Dr. Daniel McMahon, medical director of urology at Children’s Hospital, said: “Pediatric urology has consistently been ranked by US News & World Report. We are confident that we provide state-of-the-art care to our patients. We are committed to constant and continued improvement in the care we offer our patients.”

Dr. Kerwyn Jones, chair of the Department of Pediatric Orthopedics, said he believes his department’s ranking reflects increased exposure and a growing reputation among their peers nationwide, along with a strong culture of quality and safety.

“The increased involvement of our providers at national venues includes research presentations and publications, active participation in national quality initiatives and leadership involvement with national orthopedic projects aimed at improving pediatric orthopedic health care,” Jones said.

Cleveland Clinic’s Children’s Hospital earned recognition in all 10 specialties: cancer (23), cardiology & heart surgery (26), diabetes & endocrinology (39), gastroenterology and GI surgery (23), neonatology (50), nephrology (49), neurology & neurosurgery (24), orthopedics (50), pulmonology (32) and urology (42).

University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital ranked in eight specialties: cancer (22), diabetes & endocrinology (21), gastroenterology and GI surgery (44), neonatology (6), nephrology (43), orthopedics (22), pulmonology (20) and urology (24).

Statewide, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranked second in the nation among all hospitals. It had been third for seven years. It also ranked among the top five in nine of the specialties: cancer (1), gastroenterology and GI Surgery (1), nephrology (2), neurology and neurosurgery (2), urology (2), diabetes and endocrinology (3), pulmonology (3), orthopedics (4), neonatology (5), cardiology and heart surgery (8)

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

The city of Akron is applying for state funding to help pay for nine possible road projects, including the brick pavement reconstruction of Mull Avenue.

Akron City Council’s planning committee on Monday afternoon voted to suspend the rules and place the ordinance authorizing the city to apply for the funds from the Ohio Public Works Commission on the evening’s agenda.

The applications are due by July 6.

City Council unanimously passed the ordinance.

The city applies for the state funding yearly and it is highly competitive with other communities, so city officials said they are not expecting all nine separate applications to be approved. Typically, the funding amounts to 90 percent from the state and a local responsibility of 10 percent, city officials said.

In total, the city is seeking more than $20 million in grants for nine projects which would cost a total of $44.8 million. Last year, the city received $12 million.

The approved projects would not start until at least July of next year.

The potential projects include:

• Downtown Akron Promenade, Phase 2: Reconstruction of South Main Street from Mill Street to state Route 59 to create a “green and complete street” gateway corridor. Seeking $1.25 million of an $11.2 million project.

• East Exchange Street from Arc to Fountain streets: Includes reconstruction with two through lanes in each direction, turn lanes as needed, bike lanes, signals and pedestrian improvements. Seeking $3.85 million of $8.56 million project.

• Mull Avenue improvements: Brick repavement reconstruction from South Hawkins Avenue to Schneider Park Drive. Seeking $2.07 million of $2.42 million project.

• Romig Road reconstruction, Phase 1: Proposed improvements between Kendale Drive and Harlem Road. Seeking $4.42 million of a $5 million project.

• Romig Road reconstruction: Improvements from Central Avenue to Vernon Odom Boulevard. Seeking $6.5 million of an $11.35 million project.

Summit County Council said on Monday it also will seek $250,000 for the project.

Other city projects include a sanitary sewer reconstruction, a bridge deck replacement on Stuber Street, culvert replacement on Waterloo Road and water main replacement program.

During a public hearing at the council’s planning committee meeting Monday afternoon, Ward 4 Councilman Russ Neal asked for clarification about the Mull Avenue project, making sure that the brick on the road would be replaced instead of paved over. Ward 8 Councilwoman Marilyn Keith also said she was “delighted that Mull Avenue is being done.”

Keith also asked whether any of the repaving funds from the city for these projects would take away from the recently passed Issue 4, which promised repaving of roads throughout Akron.

Planning Director Jason Segedy said these projects are separate from Issue 4 projects.

Staff writer Jim Mackinnon contributed to this report. Staff writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

When Nick Mull was about 6 years old, he started making a grunting sound nonstop.

“I thought it was a habit and him being annoying,” his mom, Kim Mull, said of the eldest of her three children.

“I kept asking him to stop and he wouldn’t, so we thought he was being defiant. It got to the point where we’d ask him to stop for one minute. Ten seconds later, he would do it again. We’d say, ‘Nick, you just did it again.’ He didn’t even realize it.”

Kim and her husband, Peter, first took Nick to a counselor. The Montville Township couple was referred to see a neurologist.

Nick was diagnosed with Tourette disorder, often also called Tourette’s syndrome, after an evaluation at Akron Children’s Hospital’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center.

Children’s has started a tic and Tourette service and a Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) program, which teaches kids like Nick how to recognize and redirect their tics.

Most people probably have a tic of some sort in their lifetime, said Children’s pediatric psychologist Katrina Lindsay, who came to Children’s about 20 months ago and established the new tic and Tourette programs.

Common tics include eye blink or clearing your throat, particularly in high-stress situations, Lindsay said.

Tics can wax and wane, and don’t always need to be treated.

But when tics become functionally impairing and get in the way of making or keeping friends, concentrating in school or feeling good about themselves, patients may seek medical assistance, Lindsay said.

Diagnosing it

Tourette disorder is diagnosed when a patient has multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic lasting more than 12 months. Only about 10 percent of people with Tourette disorder have outbursts of swearing.

“We’ve had kids come in who are maybe just working on a throat clear or a shoulder roll. The more complex kids might not be able to sit still in the room,” she said.

A lot of kids have first been sent to other physicians, for instance, an eye doctor if they are squinting or blinking too much with the thought that something is wrong with their eyesight, said Lindsay.

There is no cure for tics or Tourette disorder, and some tics may go away, said Lindsay.

In her program, she teaches patients how to recognize their tic and focus the tic to another less distracting motion. It’s retraining the brain, she said.

Patients look in a mirror to watch what might happen before a tic comes on. Lindsay has them describe the feeling right before. It may be a twitch of a thumb, she said.

“It’s almost like the feeling we have before we sneeze,” she said. “How do you put words to the feeling you have before you sneeze?”

Once patients get the tools to identify where the tic is starting, the work can begin to teach a different muscle group to react, she said.

Nick, now 10, developed other tics and obsessive-compulsive disorder, reacting by describing physical pain and hitting his head against a table when he hears some very common words, such as “mother” and “father,” or lip smacking and kissing noises. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is common in patients with Tourette disorder, Lindsay said.

“I have an eye blink,” Nick said. “I have a head jab and my face grimaces.”

Nick said he tells people who ask that it’s a habit he has. Lindsay worked with Nick to control his violent reactions to the common words — which can’t be avoided at school or in general — by learning how to relax and react in a different way. She has patients work their way up a “thermometer,” with the hopes that by the time they are exposed to the issue and have worked on coping skills, they are at the top of the thermometer.

Highlight of career

“Watching Nick defeat that lip-smacking phobia was truly a highlight of my career — to see him be so proud and mom be so relieved,” said Lindsay.

Lindsay said it’s important to help her patients face their phobias head-on. She has jumped into dumpsters with patients who have germ phobias and helped a patient who was afraid of mascots by working with the Rubber Ducks baseball team.

In December 2016, Nick went through Lindsay’s six-week Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics program.

Part of the program is a family component, but the idea is not to make parents the “tic police.”

“Awareness is in a different part of the brain than where tics live,” she said. “We have a tremendous drop-off in tics after that first session.”

Long waiting list

Since her program is only one of three in the state, the waiting list can be long, she said. So far, 150 patients have completed the CBIT program.

Lindsay said the first step for parents who notice a tic is to see a primary care physician.

For the Mull family, they are continuing to work with Nick on his tics, including finding a pen pal with Tourette disorder in England. Nick and the boy have been corresponding by letters. Lindsay hopes to expand the idea to other patients.

Kim Mull has also noticed that her two younger children are developing tics and her husband has an arm tic, which was never diagnosed. Tourette disorder can be hereditary, though no one else in the family has been diagnosed, she said.

Nick’s mother said educating people about tics and Tourette disorder will help.

“Once people are educated and understand it better, then they’re not as afraid of it,” she said. “To understand this is something he can’t help but it doesn’t affect how smart he is … It’s a way for me to educate so maybe there’s a little less bullying.”

Beacon Journal medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty.

A Norton widow is accusing Summa Health and its emergency medicine physician group of negligent care that she says led to the death of her 58-year-old husband.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday, Julie Bradshaw alleges that her husband’s death from a stroke last year was caused, in part, by negligent care and “deviations from acceptable industry standards” after Summa abruptly switched ER physicians and lost its emergency medicine residency training program.

In the suit, filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court, Bradshaw claims her husband wasn’t seen by an attending physician for about 20 hours after he arrived in the Summa Barberton Hospital emergency room for vertigo.

The physicians then failed to treat him for a stroke despite test results confirming he was experiencing the life-threatening condition, Bradshaw alleges in the suit.

The suit names 23 defendants, including Akron-based Summa; Canton-based U.S. Acute Care Solutions (USACS), which staffs Summa’s ERs; several physicians; and other health care providers.

According to the suit, Robert Bradshaw was taken by ambulance late in the morning on Aug. 1, 2017, to Summa’s Barberton ER. About three hours later, CT scan results “were suspicious for cerebellar stroke and Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw were told he was having a stroke,” the lawsuit alleges.

Four hours after arriving in the ER, Bradshaw was seen for the first time by a doctor — an intern and first-year family medicine resident who “would have been approximately one month out of medical school,” according to the lawsuit. That physician did not activate a Stroke Team, the suit said.

A consultation by a neurologist also was ordered but no neurologist ever came, according to the suit.

Later in the evening, a third-year medical resident physician saw Mr. Bradshaw for “reported mental status changes” and “simply instructed the nurse to re-orient Mr. Bradshaw, and try to get him to relax despite his diagnosed cerebellar stroke,” according to the suit.

ER care

Despite being in the ER for 10 hours before being admitted to the hospital, “no emergency medicine physician or attending physician ever examined Mr. Bradshaw,” the lawsuit said.

The certified nurse practitioner and residents who saw Bradshaw were “all apparently practicing medicine and advanced practice nursing without any direct supervision,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit cites the loss of Summa’s emergency medicine residency training program, including violations cited from the national accrediting body, as a factor in Bradshaw’s death.

In February 2017, the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) revoked the program after determining there were delays in obtaining specialized care for patients with possible strokes, first-year residents and rotating residents were seeing patients without supervision and patients were being sent home without ever been seen or examined by an attending physician.

Summa saw an abrupt changeover of the longtime emergency medicine physician group on New Year’s Day 2017 after failed negotiations. The switch to USACS resulted in upheaval at Summa, including the resignation of the former CEO after hundreds of doctors voted no confidence in his leadership.

Patient deteriorated

In her lawsuit, Bradshaw says her husband’s condition further deteriorated and he was not seen by an attending physician for the total 20 hours he was at Summa Barberton.

Despite being paged by a nurse when Bradshaw’s condition worsened, the third-year resident never checked on him until after he had a heart attack, according to the suit.

Bradshaw’s cardiac arrest, the suit alleges, “caused by the failure to monitor and timely and properly treat Mr. Bradshaw’s cerebellar stroke.”

After the resident discussed Bradshaw’s case with an attending physician by phone, the patient was transferred to Summa’s main Akron City Hospital.

Bradshaw’s wife was told by a medical provider while at Barberton’s intensive care unit that her husband should have been transferred to Akron City earlier “in part because Barberton Hospital did not have neurology services,” the suit alleges.

Surgery at Akron City

Bradshaw had surgery at Akron City but died four days later.

His death certificate said he died of a “cerebellar stroke — cerebral edema.”

The case has been assigned to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jay Wells’ court. Spokesmen for both Summa and USACS said they could not comment on pending litigation.

Julie Bradshaw’s attorney, Megan Frantz Oldham, said, “Mr. Bradshaw’s family prays that this action will cause Summa to implement patient safety measures that will prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Summa Barberton Hospital’s ER is now providing medication-assisted treatment and other services to ease drug cravings and jump-start recovery for addicts who seek emergency care for an overdose.

Through a pilot program supported by United Way of Summit County, Summa Health recently hired a full-time addiction care coordinator to work in the Barberton emergency department during the overnight hours, when statistics have shown that the majority of overdose cases occur.

The coordinator works with ER doctors to provide medication-assisted treatment in the emergency room for eligible patients who are interested.

Recovering addicts from Packard Institute serving as “recovery coaches” also are on call to come to the Barberton ER to guide the patients to recovery resources in the community.

United Way and Summa officials are hoping to expand the care-coordination program to a 24-hour model.

Too often, the same patients are treated in the emergency department for an overdose only to return after subsequent overdoses because they don’t know where to turn for help, said Dr. Gregory Smith, medical director of Summa’s Barberton emergency department and the health system’s other freestanding ERs.

“Patients want this,” he said of the new ER program. “Now we have measures to help them.”

Very few emergency departments across the state administer medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine or vivitrol, which aid recovery from opioid addiction by reducing cravings, said Mairin Mancino, Summa’s director of advocacy.

The new program originally started as one of only three pilot programs in Ohio from a state grant at Summa’s Barberton campus earlier this year. The United Way got involved because the effort matches one of its “bold goals” to reduce overdose cases in area ERs to 1,000 countywide by 2025. In 2016, there were 2,400 and last year there were 2,300 cases, according to county health data.

Barberton has been particularly hard hit. According to a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com analysis, Barberton and Norton combined logged the most overdoses of any community in the county in recent years. The two cities share a ZIP code, so it wasn’t possible to separate them in the data.

The goal is to help any drug addicts, though officials know the vast majority of overdoses in the county — and especially in Barberton — are opioid overdoses, said Seth Kujat, vice president of community impact for the United Way.

“We are really treating emergency rooms as the front door for services for treatment,” Kujat said.

The program, which will take the majority of the United Way’s $500,000 funding for its bold goal, will involve about 10 other community partners.

The United Way has made a two-year commitment for the Barberton pilot program and hopes eventually to expand it to other Summa emergency departments, other hospitals and clinics in the area, Kujat said.

Before there was a care coordinator, patients were sometimes given “the options they could follow up with in the community, but nothing right then at the emergency department that would help them stay sober to get to the next level,” said Jaimie McKinnon, Summa vice president for behavioral health.

“That coordinator is setting up that source of referral services to link them directly so they don’t leave the emergency room without that next treatment option,” he said.

The coordinator also will offer resources to patients who are not ready for medication-assisted treatment or other programs to give them options.

Addictions — especially opioid addictions — remain stigmatized, said Dr. Michael Hughes, president of Summa’s Barberton campus.

“This is a disease, not a moral failure. We’ve got to address this,” he said. “This is not always someone’s fault … we have to have a cultural shift and I want to be part of that.”

The program had a soft launch last month and is ready for patients, officials said.

Partners in the project include community groups that will provide some wrap-around services and access to resources that could be barriers to a patient getting care, such as lack of transportation, child care and housing, Kujat said.

The Akron-based Packard Institute received a grant from the United Way to provide the recovery coaches working with patients at the Barberton ER.

It’s important for recovery coaches to be peers who can guide patients in their own recovery starting immediately after they are revived with the opioid antidote naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, said Raynard Packard, founder and director.

“When you’re coming out of a Narcan haze and your body is revolting because the withdrawal is setting in, you’re going to need someone to get your wing,” Packard said.

Packard’s nephew, Corey Packard, 31, will be one of those recovery coaches.

“When somebody comes into a hospital setting, they’re not going to trust all the professionals,” said Corey Packard, who has been in recovery for six months. “They’re not going to trust the nurses. They’re not going to trust the people in uniform. They’re going to trust somebody who identifies with their problem on a human level at that moment and that’s why it’s going to work.”

He said he battled his addictions for 17 years.

Raynard Packard said the recovery coaches have their own coaches who continue to help them, too.

What coaches will do will vary with each case, from going to appointments to reaching out to family members or other resources, he said.

Though some other hospitals are starting to offer medication-assisted treatment, the collaboration of so many partners in and out of the hospital will make a difference, said Dave Rich, United Way director of community health.

“This is a mix of the hospital, which is the highest level of care, partnering with legacy treatment agencies and grass roots groups like Packard,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen that many layers within one cause working together so closely.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

“Patients want this. Now we have measures to help them.”

— Dr. Gregory Smith

medical director for Summa Barberton Hospital

“When you’re coming out of a Narcan haze and your body is revolting because the withdrawal is setting in, you’re going to need someone to get your wing.

— Raynard Packard

director and founder of the Packard Institute

“This is a disease, not a moral failure. We’ve got to address this.”

— Dr. Michael Hughes

president of Summa’s Barberton campus

A legal battle between two rival Akron hospitals has been settled, with the terms kept confidential.

The resolution permits Dr. Michael Beeson to continue as the program director for Summa Akron City Hospital’s pending effort to re-establish its emergency medicine residency program.

Summa Health’s emergency room physician provider, Canton-based U.S. Acute Care Solutions (USACS), filed a complaint Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court. USACS sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop cross-town competitor Cleveland Clinic Akron General from enforcing a non-compete agreement that would prohibit Beeson from working within a 10-mile radius for one year from his employment.

Beeson gave his notice to Akron General on March 31 to work for USACS as the program director. Akron General terminated him on May 23, after hospital officials said they discovered he was actively helping his new employer with its efforts to re-establish its program.

The lawsuit put the restart of Summa’s ER training program, targeted for next July, in jeopardy.

Attorneys for the two sides negotiated Friday and Monday, reaching an agreement Monday afternoon.

“It’s a lot better to resolve disputes than to engage in costly litigation,” said Chris Niekamp, who represented Beeson. “This allows each hospital to have a residency program.”

Cleveland Clinic Akron General and USACS said in a joint statement Tuesday morning that the hospital and USACS agreed that Beeson may direct Summa’s ER program and that Beeson “will honor his agreement with Akron General by not clinically practicing outside of that role for the next year.”

“We jointly recognize the importance of education for the next generation of emergency medicine physicians,” the statement continued.

USACS said in a court filing that it believed the noncompete was not enforceable, especially in emergency medicine departments where physicians do not bring patients. USACS also said not allowing Beeson to work would jeopardize its application, cause Beeson to leave town to find work and put at risk USACS’ ability to fulfill its contract with Summa.

Lawyers for Akron General said in court documents that another emergency physician has announced he is going to Summa Health and raised concerns about “an effort to raid Akron General’s emergency department through six-figure signing bonuses and other unfair competition.”

The turmoil at Summa began last year after an abrupt changeover of the longtime emergency medicine physician group on New Year’s Day after failed negotiations. The switch to USACS resulted in upheaval at Summa, including the resignation of the CEO after hundreds of doctors voted no confidence.

The emergency medicine residency program then lost its national accreditation after the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education heard complaints that patients were being sent home from the emergency room after being seen only by residents, not the supervising emergency room physicians; allegations of intimidation of resident doctors; and lack of necessary experience among the new teaching staff to train new doctors.

The demise of the emergency medicine residency program, effective last July, meant 21 trainees had to find new training programs. Most left the area; a few went to Akron General.

Summa and USACS re-applied in April and have a site visit set for June 21, according to court filings. The site visit must be completed before the end of June for the hospital’s board to take up the request at its September meeting and for the ER program to begin accepting new students by next July.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at [email protected], 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

The legal fight between cross-town hospitals is not about whether one hospital should get its emergency medicine residency program re-established, but whether a physician who left one competitor for the other should be allowed to break a contract he signed, Cleveland Clinic Akron General said in a reply filing late Friday.

Also at question is whether Dr. Michael Beeson, who gave his notice to Akron General on March 31 but was terminated May 23 after hospital officials discovered he was actively helping his potential new employer with its application, used Akron General’s templates while still employed.

Among other allegations raised by lawyers for Akron General is that another emergency physician has announced he is going to Summa Health “and the real concern that this is the beginning of an effort to raid Akron General’s emergency department through six-figure signing bonuses and other unfair competition,” the hospital said in its filing.

The case started on Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court with Canton-based U.S. Acute Care Solutions (USACS), which runs Summa’s emergency rooms and is attempting to re-establish its suspended emergency medicine residency program. The complaint is filed against Akron General Health System and its emergency medicine physician group, Partners Physician Group.

The case was assigned to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tammy O’Brien. Chief Magistrate Kandi O’Connor, standing in for O’Brien, heard arguments from both parties Thursday and held a teleconference Friday. O’Connor did not rule on USACS’s complaint and request for a temporary restraining order and request for a preliminary injunction.

USACS is seeking the restraining order to stop Akron General from enforcing a noncompete agreement that Beeson signed, which would not allow him to work within a 10-mile radius for one year after his employment ended. USACS in its original filing, said it does not believe noncompete clauses are enforceable, especially in emergency room settings where physicians do not take patients with them.

The complaint also alleges the contract is inapplicable because Beeson will be working for USACS and not Summa. The complaint says Ohio courts have not supported noncompete agreements.

In its reply filing, Akron General said it did not matter whether Beeson was working for USACS or Summa as it still violated the contract.

“This is not a case about Summa’s ability to re-commence its Emergency Medicine Residency. Defendants, like others in the community, would like to see the return of an accredited program. We simply ask that the Program Director not be an individual who willingly signed a negotiated, noncompete agreement which precludes his employment with a competitor doing business less than ten miles away,” Akron General said.

Pending contract

Akron General said the only way Beeson will not be able to work for USACS or Summa would be by a court order.

Beeson has a pending contract with USACS to serve as the program director in charge of education in Summa’s pending application to regain national accreditation for its Emergency Department physician trainee program.

In its reply, Akron General said Beeson left for a significant signing bonus and the hospital only learned of his plans to go to Summa “once they reviewed an email reflecting Dr. Beeson’s active involvement in creating ‘Goals and Objectives’ for Summa Emergency Medicine Residents.” The brief said Beeson was doing this while still employed at Akron General, and “we believe that Dr. Beeson may have been using an Akron General template, while working for Akron General, for purposes of completing Summa’s paperwork for accreditation.”

In a second legal filing by plaintiff USACS earlier Friday, attorneys said “Cleveland Clinic lacks any legitimate competitive interest in preventing Dr. Beeson from serving as an educator. It is only for illegitimate and unlawful reasons that it has threatened to enforce the Non-Compete Provisions and to prevent Dr. Beeson from performing vital services, in a remarkably unique role, and for which he has devoted his entire career.”

Beeson would be forced to leave the area to continue his employment in “a position far below his level of expertise and qualifications” if the noncompete agreement is enforced, the filing said.

‘Substantial risk’

Attorneys for USACS also said without the temporary restraining order, “there would be substantial risk” that the physician group would be unable to perform its duties under its contact with Summa “as a result of being unable to provide a physician eligible and qualified to oversee the re-establishment of Summa’s emergency medicine residency program.”

The turmoil at Summa began last year after an abrupt changeover of the longtime emergency medicine physician group on New Year’s Day after failed negotiations. The switch to USACS resulted in upheaval at Summa, including the resignation of the CEO after hundreds of doctors voted no confidence.

The emergency medicine residency program then lost its national accreditation after the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) ruled on accusations that found patients were being sent home from the emergency room after being seen only by residents, not the supervising emergency room physicians; allegations of intimidation of resident doctors and a ruling that the new teaching staff lacked the experience to train new doctors.

The demise of the emergency medicine residency program, effective last July meant 21 trainees had to find new programs. Most left the area, with a few going to Akron General.

Summa and USACS reapplied in April and it has a site visit set for June 21, according to court filings. The site visit must be completed before the end of June for the hospital to meet a filing deadline for a September meeting that could determine whether the program can admit new students by next July.

On Thursday, Summa Interim CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny said the hospital was moving forward with its application.

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter.

Summa Health’s path to try to restart its embattled emergency medicine residency program has now headed to the courtroom in a battle with Cleveland Clinic Akron General, its crosstown rival.

That legal fight could jeopardize the hospital’s pending application to regain national accreditation to train physicians by next July.

At the core is whether a noncompete contract for the Akron General doctor hired to lead Summa’s re-established program can be enforced.

However, a national emergency medicine industry expert said the legal complaint and result of the noncompete contract could jeopardize the hospital’s application or push the potential start of the program back by a year.

But Summa Interim CEO Cliff Deveny Thursday night said the hospital and its Graduate Medical Education Committee, the group of other residency directors in charge of the application, are moving forward.

“We’re not a party to it,” Deveny said of the legal complaint filed by U.S. Acute Care Solutions (USACS), which staffs Summa’s emergency departments and is trying to re-establish the residency program.

“We support USACS as our partner and they have been committed to getting the emergency medicine residency application in and getting it certified and getting a class in here as soon as possible,” said Deveny.

Dr. Michael Beeson was hired recently by Canton-based USACS to serve as the new program director of Summa’s emergency medicine residency program.

The program director, with the department’s chairman, oversees the faculty and education of the residency trainees.

But Beeson, who worked for and taught residents at Summa for 27 years before going over to Akron General eight years ago to be its emergency medicine program chair, signed a noncompete clause in his contract. That clause prohibits him from working for a competitor within a 10-mile radius for one year after he leaves Akron General.

On March 31, Beeson gave his 90-day notice to Akron General and on May 23, Akron General terminated Beeson without cause, according to a civil complaint filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court on Thursday morning by Beeson, USACS and its physician group, Emergency Medicine Physicians of Cuyahoga County. The complaint is filed against Akron General Health System and its emergency medicine physician group, Partners Physician Group.

Noncompete contract

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege the noncompete clause is not enforceable, as well as inapplicable because Beeson will be working for USACS and not Summa. The complaint also says Ohio courts have not supported noncompete agreements, “especially disfavored in the physician context because of the enormous impact they have on the public.”

In his new role, Beeson will not be taking patients or business from the defendants since patients going to an emergency room do not choose their doctor and Beeson “has not obtained any trade secrets” from Akron General, the complaint said.

Additionally, USACS said “the community will be greatly harmed by the enforcement” of the noncompete provision, “because in doing so, Summa’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program, which is the process of recertification, would be significantly and negatively impacted without the residency director input to be provided by Dr. Beeson.”

In a May 23 letter, Littler Mendelson, the law firm representing the Cleveland Clinic, informed Beeson that the Clinic intended to file suit against him and USACS if he goes to work for the rival company.

“It is our understanding that you will be performing identical duties for our competitor, Summa. We are particularly disturbed by the fact that, while still employed at Akron General, you provided substantive and extensive services on behalf of Summa’s Residency Program, and, indeed played a primary role in Summa’s effort to obtain ACGME accreditation for its emergency medicine residency,” the letter from attorney Robert Wolff wrote.

Attempts to reach Beeson were not successful. A message was left with Beeson and a request was made to interview him through USACS.

USACS spokesman Marty Richmond declined further comment until after a court hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Cleveland Clinic Akron General spokesman Joe Milicia said the health system’s policy is not to discuss pending litigation.

Industry reaction

The turmoil at Summa began last year after an abrupt changeover of the longtime emergency medicine physician group on New Year’s Day after failed negotiations. The switch to USACS resulted in upheaval at Summa, including the resignation of the CEO after hundreds of doctors voted no confidence.

The emergency medicine residency program then lost its accreditation after the ACGME ruled on accusations that found patients were being sent home from the emergency room after being seen only by residents, not the supervising emergency room physicians; allegations of intimidation of resident doctors and a ruling that the new teaching staff lacked the experience to train new doctors.

The demise of the emergency medicine residency program, effective last July meant 21 trainees had to find new programs. Most left the area, with a few going to Akron General.

What happened at Summa is still big news in the national emergency medicine industry, said Dr. Robert McNamara, Temple University emergency medicine chairman who is past president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

“People are still talking about this,” said McNamara. “The destruction of program was the first time it’s ever happened. … It’s a black mark on the specialty.”

Beeson is a big name in the emergency medicine community and has a solid reputation, said McNamara. However, McNamara also said he believes “the pool of highly qualified residency directors who would step into that program wasn’t that big” given what happened.

Hiring Beeson with his noncompete was a big risk, McNamara said.

While the national group McNamara is involved in does not believe in noncompete agreements for emergency medicine physicians, the issue with USACS/Summa and Akron General goes to an additional level of the establishment of a competing residency program and fighting to recruit qualified trainees, he said.

McNamara, who is not currently involved with the ACGME but has been on accreditation teams in the past, said he believes it will be important to ACGME if the program director’s status has been challenged.

Dr. John Zografakis, president of Summa’s medical staff, said he believed the committee of residency program doctors at the hospital “is going to do everything in its power to make sure we have a strong application to re-establish a strong residency with community.”

If that means “delaying it a year, if it’s in the best interest of system, community and any incoming residents that may be training so we may not have any disruption training in the past. … I trust they’ll make the best decision for the institution.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Alyssa Apostolakis wanted to be a counselor to help children and young adults struggling with drug addictions.

Alyssa’s own battle with drug addiction started at age 12, when she was prescribed opiates after surgery to repair a leg she broke on a trampoline. She then underwent a series of oral surgeries after she hit her head coming down a waterslide at Disney World.

Her drug use escalated. She had many ups and downs, often staying clean for long lengths of time, said her parents, Lea Heidman and Brian Malone.

But even access to some of the best treatment programs in the country couldn’t save her.

Now her parents are fulfilling her desire to help others by donating a total of $300,000 in her memory toward an effort to launch an Addiction Services Program at Akron Children’s Hospital.

The program — announced Wednesday afternoon — is focusing its first phase on education, prevention, screening care coordination, community outreach and referrals at Children’s locations throughout Ohio. It also will offer medically assisted treatment for opiate addiction and an outpatient clinic as the program grows.

Ohio has the second-highest rate of overdose deaths in the country and is at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, said Children’s Hospital President Grace Wakulchik.

“As a leader in pediatric care, we felt the need to be more strategic in our services — with the ultimate goal of preventing today’s children and teens from becoming the next generation of adults struggling with lifelong addiction,” she said.

For Alyssa, her drug use became worse in high school.

The Montville Township native overdosed when she was 16 and spent time in Akron Children’s Hospital’s partial hospitalization program. She left that program and went directly to a residential program in Utah, where she stayed for 11 months. She then transitioned to a behavioral boarding school in North Carolina, where she graduated and went to college in North Carolina.

Her parents tried to be strict with her, limiting her access to money and requiring her to take a drug test every other week and meet with a psychologist.

Still, Alyssa struggled and hid her addictions from those closest to her, said Heidman, president and CEO of Golden Alliance Inc., which owns five McDonald’s locations in in Montrose, Norton, Wadsworth, Macedonia and Medina.

In March 2015, Alyssa seemed to be doing well, said Malone, Alyssa’s stepfather, who raised her and two siblings since they were young.

Her family thought she was clean.

“We knew that she had a couple of lapses, but we did not know that the addiction had taken her so severely as it did. She was so stealth in hiding her addiction, even from her closest friends,” her mother said.

On St. Patrick’s Day that year, Alyssa stayed in her dorm room in North Carolina and studied instead of going out drinking, even though she had turned 21 the month before.

The next day, on March 18, Heidman and Malone received a phone call from the sheriff.

Alyssa was dead from a heroin overdose.

Her family is unsure what happened. They only know that she overdosed on straight heroin. She was supposed to see the family for vacation in five days.

“What was ironic about Alyssa,” said Malone, “was she wanted to help others rather than help herself. Even when she was going through all of this addiction, she’d be helping others through addiction, helping homeless people, but not looking at herself in the mirror and saying ‘I need help myself.’ ”

The family quickly turned their grief into action. They established a nonprofit organization, Fighting for Alyssa, (http://www.fightingforalyssa.org) which is dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

The foundation is issuing its largest gift — $100,000 — to support the new addiction services at Children’s. Heidman and Malone also are personally giving $200,000 to the effort, to total $300,000 from their family and foundation over a five-year period.

A total of $800,000 has been donated to the hospital to start the program, including a $250,000 donation from FedEx Custom Critical and contributions from Marci Matthews, Harvey and Kim Nelson, Friends of Akron Children’s Hospital, Bob and Regina Cooper and Don Sitts.

The opioid crisis “is having a major effect on our community and we must address it with the highest sense of urgency,” said Virginia Addicott, president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical.

The funds will be enough to support a new case manager, Stephanie Strader, who will connect patients with resources and services at the hospital and in the community.

Younger children and teens tend to experiment with other substances and move to opioids as young adults, said Dr. Sarah Friebert, founder and medical director of the hospital’s Haslinger Center Palliative Care Center.

But hospital staff are seeing the effects of the opioid epidemic, from addicted pregnant moms and their babies to toddlers accidently ingesting drugs and school-age children “who live in homes where drug use is rampant and they’re not getting their basic needs met,” Friebert said.

The new program will centralize some of the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient efforts and services at its pediatric offices to screen for substance abuse and offer assistance, she said.

The program can be reached at 330-543-3343.

“There have been pockets of things we’ve offered throughout the organization, but there hasn’t been any way to pull all of that together, to try to come together with a comprehensive strategy and one number to call,” Friebert said.

“If we’re getting in early enough with these kids, if they never pick it up in the first place, if we are able to get in and get kids hooked up with appropriate counseling, they may not progress to addiction.”

The educational materials handed out as part of the new center will be branded “Alyssa’s Promise,” in honor of her nickname, AP, and “the promise that she always wanted to help other people,” said her mom. “She’s doing that.”

Heidman said she hopes the efforts can spare other parents from the pain of losing a child to an overdose death.

Alyssa wanted to beat her addiction and was ashamed by it, her stepfather said. She also lost two boyfriends to heroin overdoses and still couldn’t get out of the addiction cycle. Heidman and Malone said they understand there was a mental health element, too, and their daughter may have been predisposed to addiction.

“She was tormented by this,” said Malone. “We provided her with every opportunity we could and we would have continued to have done that but she just couldn’t get out of that cycle. It’s tragic.”

Heidman said she had to fulfill her daughter’s wishes by starting the foundation to help stop the opioid epidemic.

“How do you breathe in the last breath of your daughter? You do it through other people. So we chose to take her mission to help others.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty