Give Lakewood A Chance-- Vote
I have a friend who just moved to Lakewood; she thinks it's a great place and it is, but this being an election year I had to tell her, it's not as great as it once was. It was once a lot safer. We once had a city government that we could rely on to represent us and be truthful. We don't have that now.
We once had a full service hospital with a real Emergency Room. Now we have a mayor and some members of City Council who actively worked to close that hospital and were not honest with Lakewood residents about why.
With records requests and reviews of financial records we know a lot of things now that we didn't know when the hospital was closed. The facts that I refer to in this article are not theories in a battle over whether the hospital should have been saved or not. At this late date all of this information is backed up by records that at the time were kept from the public by our own representatives, two of whom are running for office. If you are new to Lakewood and don't have time to read the rest of this, here are some of the records obtained with freedom of information requests, go to these links.
Some background for newcomers: The city of Lakewood had its own community hospital beginning in 1907. When Lakewood Hospital closed (in February 2016) it was being managed by the Cleveland Clinic, it was owned by the citizens of Lakewood.
The hospital was not failing when it closed. We were told by our own city officials at that time that it was failing, but it was solidly in the black. It had no debt. It made less money than it once did, because under the Ed FitzGerald administration, the high-level trauma ER, the pediatric and cardiac units, which were all money-makers, were moved to Cleveland Clinic's Fairview Hospital in exchange for Cleveland Clinic providing Lakewood with what they called "Centers of Excellence" which never materialized.
Why didn't the mayor or council at the time question this or ask that our departments be brought back since Cleveland Clinic didn't make good on their deal? When did our city government start giving away our hospital and why? We don't know, but it began then.
Lakewood Hospital was the biggest employer in Lakewood. When the hospital closed we lost more than a thousand jobs and yet Mayor Summers (who is still our mayor) and city council worked hard to convince us that it was a good idea to get rid of it.
In other cities, city representatives fight hard to keep their number one job provider, but not here.
What is worse, is that right now, if you, or someone in your family, starts to have what you think might be a stroke or heart attack, or a serious accident, like with a chainsaw, or blowing up your hand with an M80 in Lakewood, you're in trouble. Since our "Emergency Room" isn't attached to a hospital, you can't be rushed into surgery. If the EMTs take you to Lakewood's "ER," you're going to have to be transferred to a hospital, losing valuable time, possibly losing your life, yet many have been taken there when experiencing symptoms, etc instead of straight to a hospital like Fairview.
So should you get someone to drive you to Fairview? But Fairview's ER is often overcrowded since Lakewood's real ER closed. Should you get someone to drive you to Metro? Lutheran? St. John's Westshore? Plus it's dangerous not to get an ambulance, many life-saving procedures can be performed in an ambulance. What should you do? When we had a real ER in Lakewood, it was so close you could often get to the hospital before an ambulance could get to your house.
The security of knowing what to do when there is an emergency in your household in Lakewood is gone. That security was one of the best and safest things about Lakewood, one of the reasons people moved here, and stayed here, for over a hundred years.
Our mayor and members of city council told us that we were lucky to get a Cleveland Clinic "Family Health Center" in place of our hospital. It is basically a doctor's office. Its "ER" can set a broken arm and do stitches, but they can't do anything to help anyone who is seriously ill. I have actually been reprimanded by a doctor there for bringing in a friend who needed more serious care. The doctor WORKING THERE told me, "You should never have brought him here." Having a sign that says "Emergency" for a facility that isn't a real Emergency Room is more dangerous than having no Emergency room at all.
Meanwhile, our Council at the time and mayor gave our bed licenses, equipment and staff to Cleveland Clinic for their new full service hospital in Avon, while telling citizens in Lakewood that "Healthcare was changing," "We don't need a hospital, we're going to be the healthiest city in America." If we needed a hospital, we could visit our beds in Avon, if we could find transportation.
Our own elected representatives did this to us.
We were told Cleveland Clinic was leaving, and no-one else wanted to run the hospital, we would be left with an empty building. This was also untrue. There was a contract with Cleveland Clinic until 2026 that the Clinic had to honor. To break it, they would have had to pay a lot of money that would have made the next manager of Lakewood hospital very happy, and in fact, Metro had made an offer to run our hospital, which included investing $100 million, saving 800 jobs and replacing services we had lost. See it here: http://lakewoodobserver.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=25046&p=184617&hilit=Metro+Proposal#p184617
That offer was rebuffed by the city, and hidden from the public. There were other offers that were similarly dismissed.
There was never any danger of an empty building.
There are people in Lakewood who still think the hospital was failing, and "healthcare is changing" etc, and I sympathize with them. Who wants to believe something so ugly could happen to us at the hands of our own representatives? The mayor has been very nice to me and my family. I think he must have inherited a nightmare and has never had the chance to be the kind of mayor who could fight for his city. The whole thing makes me sick and I'd like never to hear about it again but I'm a parent and a citizen. This is going to be my children's world. I have to try. It is my obligation to understand what happened.
Lakewood is now truly less safe. Not to mention what's going to happen to our taxes when the loss of all those lost jobs hits home.
Lakewood is going to be seriously flawed until we replace the people who did such a thing to the residents that they were supposed to represent. They were supposed to care about our well being and our quality of life. They were supposed to work for us.
Current Ward 2 Councilman Sam O'Leary is now running for mayor. He worked very hard to close Lakewood Hospital. Current Ward 3 Councilman John Litten helped orchestrate the closing as a member of the Lakewood Hospital Association. They both prevented the public from understanding what was happening in the days leading up to the giving away of the hospital, and then O'Leary, along with every other member of council at the time, voted to get rid of the hospital.
They, as our representatives, at the very least, owe us an explanation as to why they did this. They have never explained and now, in election season, don't want to discuss it at all. They certainly aren't speaking with pride about the new Family Health Center, or the hole in the ground where the hospital used to be, or the land that belonged to the citizens of Lakewood that they they sold to developers for one dollar.
We have a chance to vote these representatives out of office for truly not doing their jobs. Sam O'Leary's opponent, Meghan George is currently on city council but she was not at the time of the hospital closure and has stated that if she had been, she would have fought to keep it open. http://lakewoodobserver.com/read/2019/10/02/candidate-questions-for-meghan-george (Question 3)
We have to do what we can to get a fresh start on taking care of our city and trying to make it back into a place that respects the people who live here. We can't afford public officials who have exhibited such disregard and disrespect for the people they were supposed to represent. There is more to lose.
This article has been updated from a previous article published October 18, 2017.