The Hospital Debate From A One-Year Resident

I have lived in Lakewood for about a year now, and I have given myself a lot of time to consider both sides of the Lakewood Hospital debate. As a citizen, it is very clear what the whole debate is about. Trust what the Cleveland Clinic is doing, or save what in this transitioning healthcare stage we live in, in this country, that is a rarity among rarities-- a hospital. A hospital that has been put in a reasonable travel-distance for emergencies. A hospital that has been a community staple for years. A defining feature of Lakewood. One of  the many reasons why I moved to Lakewood, outside of the diversity, the closeness in distance, the local businesses ranging from the bars and restaurants to the local shops and boutiques, and the affordability.

I went to the last City Council meeting, which was a special meeting in relation to the vote on the referendum to keep Lakewood Hospital open until a better solution could be offered. One citizen offered multiple solutions and was even willing to personally invest financially into it so long as the Council votes no on the agreement at hand. I spoke, because I had questions.

It is not that I don't understand how City Council works. I understand their reality. I understand the current financial reality of Lakewood Hospital, and the offer that the Lakewood Hospital Association has on its shoulders. I also understand the reality that Lakewood is a politically-conscious and active community, that has a good record. Any citizenry who can bend the will of the Catholic diocese of Cleveland, which is its own behemoth, to save a community staple, like St. James Church is a reputable community, to speak nothing of its many parks, its unique homes, its amazing library, its support for the arts via the Beck Center of the Arts, its phenomenal and recognized schools. I also understand the reality of the legacy of Cleveland Clinic, just ask the former patients of Huron Hospital in East Cleveland. Ask the former patients of Euclid Hospital in Euclid. Ask the nurses who are in between jobs because while they got the prestige of the Clinic, their jobs fell to the line because the turnover rate is high and not because of an individual hospital's economy. Ask patients who did not get the world-class care based on their income status and don't have enough to sue for malpractice because they can't even afford a council with a lawyer. Ask anyone who refers to Cleveland Clinic to be the city's hospital, even though they often complain that residents of Greater Cleveland, no matter where they live, are not getting world-class care. People would much rather recognize the behemoth and fall into place than acknowledge that it is not perfect.

Of course, Save Lakewood Hospital doesn't want the perfect solution to this problem. They just want the acknowledgment that for the first time in a while and behind their backs, a deal was made that they had no voice in. It doesn't make sense why a community that prides itself on government transparency would suddenly choose to go opaque with this Cleveland Clinic deal. What is assumed is that there was a payoff, and I am sure everyone has a political future at the Clinic's expense. A councilman by the name of David Anderson told me, after I suggested this to him, the usual political shpiel about how he started out.

When I told him that this is a political reality in a post-Citizens United America, and it is not impossible that the Clinic has the Council bought, he pretended that it wasn't the reality. When I told him that this would cost him a vote, he said that that didn't matter to him and that I am just one person. Clearly, the councilman already told me what he didn't want to admit, and that is the entire problem in a nutshell. And, in the City Hall bathroom no less, which, I am glad, still works.

I will give the councilman room to clarify his comments to me if he so chooses. But the City Council seems to be taking after the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and even the Vatican, and minus the difference of women in leadership roles, it seems that there is a narrative they want to control. They say there is an open dialogue, but it's only open if it is the words they want to hear. They say they are honest and open to feedback, but only so long as it isn't disagreeing with what has been concluded for the “public good.” They say they value the voices of their constituency, but like the Vatican and the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, it is parlayed in the direction of the non-participatory, everything agreed-upon, opaque decision, and we as people, as constituents, are only there to accept and obey. Such is the reality of a post-Citizens United political America made flesh in our City Council. To me, as a citizen of Lakewood, that doesn't make sense to me. Maybe it makes sense to the tune of a campaign contributions and a political future in Greater Cleveland that Lakewood is a part of, but to this citizen, it doesn't make sense.

I have lived in Lakewood for over a year, and have taken the time to educate myself on both sides of the Lakewood Hospital debate. Lakewood has what is still is unique in the Greater Cleveland area-- a hospital that is within a short travel distance of any residential home-- one of the reasons why I moved to Lakewood, outside of affordability. But, this is more than just a Lakewood issue, this is a city issue.

Ask former patients of the Huron Hospital in East Cleveland. Ask former patients of Euclid Hospital in Euclid. The Cleveland Clinic may have world-class reputation, but it does not run like a non-profit organization, it runs like a corporation, and like a corporation, people are nothing but cattle. Hospitals are not recovery centers, they are businesses that make millions on the health care plans of people in all stages of life.

Locations are not founded out of community need, no matter how they are sold, but are founded for real estate prime location. City councils are not representatives of constituents elected in to serve the people, but private entities looking to bought for a good enough price. Community service associations aren't concerned citizens who can afford to maintain the finances of a public service, but are an extra few thousand dollars to offer at the table that you didn't offer to City Council. This is a reality of living in a post-Citizens United America, and catching a hospital in the midst of a financial transition while national health care is also transitioning, well, that's where stink meets opportunity, and Lakewood apparently is not exempt from this political reality.

I only ask that readers consider that the Cleveland Clinic is not perfect, and Clevelanders from all sides and neighborhoods who have had negative experiences and know what happens when a corporation posing as a non-profit organization comes into a community with a successful city hospital to “help” and ends up screwing the city over see it happening again and we say and do nothing, well, it puts our health care options at a dangerous risk, and the constituencies of East Cleveland, Euclid, and Lakewood are not worth the sacrifice.

I still like living in Lakewood, but if the citizens of Lakewood can bend the will of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland to keep St. James Church open, which is its own behemoth, and which unlike other communities at least that I am aware of, managed to keep St. James open, then I don't see any excuse, financial or otherwise, why Save Lakewood Hospital doesn't deserve the same indirect courtesy of just being heard.

Tim Collingwood

I am a Lakewood resident of the past year, who writes blogs for Tumblr, and have written blogs for TCM, and am/was the Akron Classic Movie Examiner. I would like to write about issues pertaining to social justice issues and how they are affecting the Lakewood community. I believe in the power of citizen journalism, and as a reader of Lakewood Observer, I like that I get it.

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Volume 12, Issue 1, Posted 6:19 PM, 01.05.2016