Winning The War Over Lakewood Hospital:Keep Your Eyes On The Ball And Hit A Home Run

Battle lines have been drawn. The pain felt is deep and real. The division and rancor over the fate of Lakewood Hospital has sliced the soul of the community. But that division must dissolve into unity. That rancor must evolve into a commitment to build a better future. 

Address To City Council: July 20, 2015

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the Cleveland Clinic and Lakewood Hospital Association's proposal you have before you for the redevelopment of the Lakewood Hospital site. 

I'm Dr. Georganne Vartorella, a board certified physician of internal medicine. I had the privilege of serving the community as an independent practitioner in Lakewood and Lakewood Hospital. My husband is still an independent practitioner of ophthalmology in Lakewood. 

When I began my career I chose Lakewood and Lakewood Hospital instead of a university teaching hospital in Washington D.C. because the quality of care here was equally superb. But the dedication, compassion, commitment and sense of community I saw in everyone who worked at Lakewood Hospital was unmatched compared to anywhere else I'd been. 

We were a family with the singular goal of providing the best service we could to patients and their families. 

My husband and I also chose to practice in the city of Lakewood because of its diversity, its energy and its vibrancy as well as this community's willingness to look ahead and step into the future, embrace change, welcome change, adapt to change and consider the possibilities that change holds. 

I remember my time at Lakewood Hospital fondly. Proud of a job well done by all of us. 

But it's time to let go and do what this community does best-move Lakewood forward and consider the opportunity that's presented. It will allow patients and all residents to grow and prosper. 

The change in medical care and its delivery is seismic and astonishing. And it's going to keep changing at an exponential rate. 

The length of an inpatient hospital stay following gall bladder surgery or hip replacement, for example, is a fraction of what it was just a few years ago. 

There was a time when a patient who'd had cataract surgery was confined to an inpatient hospital bed for a month with their head sandbagged so they couldn't move and compromise the eye that had been operated on. Today's cataract surgery is a ten minute procedure typically done in an outpatient ambulatory setting. Patients can return to work the next day and sometimes even the same day. 

The transition from inpatient treatment to outpatient treatment has been enormous nationwide. The requirements for inpatient care will continue to rapidly decline across the country. Studies by institutions including the National Institute of Health have cited hospital capacity excess for decades. Collaborative studies by groups such as the American Hospital Association and the Association for Community Health Improvement have shown that hospitals must improve health outside their walls and into the community. Hospitals can no longer simply be organized to deliver acute care. They will be required and they will be mandated to provide health education, healthy lifestyle promotion as well as disease and injury prevention programs. 

Consider this. Patients in the remotest parts of the country and the world, generally unable to get to a physician can now access the healtcare system and a provider through tools like skype. Historically, intermittent heart rhytm disturbances have often been difficult for physicians to detect in the office or with conventional technology. Now imagine in the not too distant future, a telephone app that would allow a patient to transmit the abnormal rhythm in real time, as it's occurring, to their doctor or a specialist hundreds of miles away. 

It's incredible to think of how medicine has changed globally and will evolve in ways we cannot yet even imagine or envision. And so will the face and infrastructure of hospitals. 

I'm not privy to information about what could have, should have or would have been alternative paths for Lakewood Hospital. But it's not useful or healthy to continue to speculate and wrangle about it. 

Nor do I think it's productive or healthy to speculate and wrangle about what independent physicians could have, should have or would have done if we had a "do over". But I am fairly confident that as community hospitals close one after another, day after day across this country, few, if any, are left with the potential for redevelopment that Lakewood has before it. 

To squander this potential would be tragic and I believe devastating for Lakewood.

The task ahead is clear. It's necessary. Physicians must do what we're taught to do, what we're bound to do-advocate for patients. 

And I ask the City Council to continue the stewardship that has set this community apart from others. Vote for this proposal and guide the community through this time of uncertaintly and, perhaps, even fear of change into a future that will advance the care of patients and the growth and development of Lakewood. 

This time physicians and the community must get on board and take this train. If we don't we'll leave our patients and Lakewood stranded at the station.

Georganne Vartorella, M.D.

Georganne Vartorella, M.D., Founder of POSITIVELY SENIOR (, is an advocate for seniors and patients, a freelance writer and a board certified physician. Dr. Vartorella had a successful private practice of Internal Medicine in Lakewood.

Read More on Lakewood Health Care
Volume 11, Issue 17, Posted 4:01 PM, 08.18.2015