Lawsuit Charges That Lakewood Hospital Turnaround Plan Was Fiction

Cleveland Clinic executives may have deceived Lakewood’s officials with
a fictional turnaround plan for Lakewood Hospital, according to recent
filings in a related lawsuit.

Attorneys representing Lakewood taxpayers have discovered that Clinic
executives dismissed their “Vision for Tomorrow” plan as ineffective as
early as 2010, after barely one year. The Clinic nonetheless continued
public promises that the initiative would ensure Lakewood Hospital’s
long-term viability.

According to the most recent plaintiffs’ filing in taxpayers’ ongoing
lawsuit, “the Lakewood City Council, the Lakewood Hospital Foundation
donors, and the public were being duped into supporting a mirage.”

In June 2010, the Clinic petitioned City Council’s permission to remove
from Lakewood Hospital all trauma and inpatient pediatric care, in order
to consolidate those services at Fairview Hospital. The Clinic reassured
audiences that under the Vision for Tomorrow, expansion in other
services would keep Lakewood Hospital fit.

City Council gave its assent to the proposal on that basis. On June 10,
Council agreed that the Cleveland Clinic could remove the two valuable
services, which otherwise the Clinic was contractually obligated to
provide in Lakewood. Council’s resolution was explicit that this
agreement was based on losses to Lakewood Hospital being offset by the
overall Vision for Tomorrow plan.

Cleveland Clinic regional hospitals president Dr. David Bronson
privately judged the plan ineffective, however, even though the Clinic
originally projected its completion as requiring several years. Bronson
has testified in court that in September 2010 he advised then-Mayor Ed
Fitzgerald that the Vision for Tomorrow was unlikely to succeed.

Attorneys for Lakewood taxpayers have suggested that in combination,
“Those misleading statements are evidence of a deception, in violation
of Ohio Revised Code Section 2913.43 Securing Writings by Deception, as
well as evidence of fraud…”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have also raised questions about whether any
party, involved in overseeing Lakewood Hospital, ever took the Vision
for Tomorrow seriously.

In his own testimony, Mayor Mike Summers described Fitzgerald as
unattentive to the supposedly major initiative. Summers has testified
that upon his own appointment to the mayor’s office, Fitzgerald did not
offer him any substantive information or discussion about the Vision for
Tomorrow, or the hospital, generally. “His mind was clearly on his next
job [as County Executive],” Summers said. “So while we had a very
cordial hand-off, there was not a lot of specifics to it.”

Other testimony by Summers reveals that specifics were consistently
absent from the Vision for Tomorrow. After City Council ceded pediatrics
and trauma services in return for the Vision’s other promises, for
example, it seems not to have noticed the trade’s failure. In January,
Summers told the court that he was unaware of any formal measurement of
the plan’s results compared with its goals, or formal oversight of the
Cleveland Clinic’s compliance with its binding lease on Lakewood Hospital.

The latest questions about the Vision for Tomorrow will likely add fuel
to the larger controversy over whether closing Lakewood Hospital was
advisable. Another document revealed in the taxpayers’ lawsuit, and
published earlier in October, indicates that the Cleveland Clinic
recognized an obligation to spend $278 million to maintain Lakewood
Hospital through the expiration of its lease in 2026.

In December of last year, Lakewood City Council passed an ordinance to 
close the hospital and let the Cleveland Clinic out of all obligations 
required by its lease. Thousands of citizens who disagreed then signed 
a petition to overturn council’s action. Lakewood voters will judge 
for or against the ordinance, which appears on ballots as Issue 64, on 
November 8.

Matt Kuhns

Matt Kuhns is a freelance graphic designer, and occasional author.

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Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 5:52 PM, 10.25.2016