SLH Seeks Unity And Choices While City Hall Fights To Limit Choice And Divide Us

The hospital saga has followed the well known playbook of large hospital systems that divide and conquer local communities to limit consumer choice and limit competition. They do this by sizing up local leaders, promising the leaders things that the leaders want and then dividing the community to achieve the hospital system’s goals of limited consumer choice. In Lakewood’s case, the Cleveland Clinic (CCF) worked that playbook to perfection and City Hall chose to side with CCF and divide itself from the people.

City Hall Made Chose to Limit Choice and Divide the City.

The record is clear that several years ago, CCF promised things to Mayor Summers and he then chose to side with CCF—Summers was promised land and money to pursue his recreation and economic development agenda in exchange for giving CCF a virtual monopoly on healthcare, limiting competition and choices for the people of Lakewood. It is now clear that Summers, with the help of others, steered a “sham” bid process allowing CCF the inside track. Indeed, Summers chose two CCF Trustees to assist in conducting and overseeing the bid process. On January 14, 2015, councilmembers Mary Madigan and Tom Bullock (who were likely aware of the sham process) made their choices to join with CCF in limiting choice. On December 21, 2015, City Council collectively made their choice by voting 7-0 to limit the peoples’ choice to CCF. Several Councilmembers even explained their choices to join CCF and divide from the people as “the only option.”

The Grassroots Movement Gives the People Choices at the Ballot and for their Healthcare.

Since its formation in January, 2015, the grassroots organization known as Save Lakewood Hospital (SLH) has consistently promoted choices for all of the people of Lakewood. SLH consistently urged City Hall to have a fair, open and honest bidding process concerning all available options. City Hall embraced the sham process and refused to engage in an open, honest and otherwise legitimate bid process. SLH promoted a charter amendment known as issue 64 to give the people the choice on the hospital issues. The political action committee (PAC) that opposed issue 64 was funded by the Lakewood Hospital Association (LHA) with much support from City Hall and CCF. While they outspent the grassroots effort 10 to 1, filled mailboxes with false campaign literature and propaganda, they eked out only a narrow 52 to 48 “victory” to limit the choice.

Last month, SLH successfully led a signature drive and referendum effort to give voters the choice of overturning the City Hall/LHA/CCF limited choice. If the referendum passes, it will nullify the Master Agreement that gave away $70M in value to CCF for free and unfairly restricted operation of a hospital in the existing city-owned hospital Lakewood Hospital building (the “restrictive covenant”). The restrictive covenant helped CCF limit choices of the people and also helped Summers, et al with their recreation and economic development agenda. Passage of the referendum will also allow the city to properly conduct a fair, open and honest bidding process concerning all available choices for future healthcare—a longstanding goal of SLH supporters.

City Hall is Fighting the People’s Right to a Vote and Choices for their Healthcare.

The referendum could have been placed on the upcoming March 15th ballot, but the law department and city council made choices to delay the vote. On February 11, 2016, Kevin Butler announced the “city’s legal position” is that if the referendum passes, CCF/LHA/City Hall will proceed with their alliance and ignore or fight the voters’ choice.  So essentially, City Hall has chosen to fight the people’s right under their own city charter to have a choice in their own healthcare.   

By all accounts, City Hall/LHA/CCF secretly manufactured and contrived a “legal position” that if valid would essentially steal the right of the people to choose the future of healthcare in Lakewood.  In a twisted justification for keeping the details of the secret plan from the public, the city has argued that the taxpayer lawsuit (citizens seeking sunshine on the process) provided them with the “legal” cover to negotiate the Master Agreement with CCF and LHA in secret. Since the Master Agreement has been made public, City Hall has refused to answer questions and produce public records as to how and why critical details were arrived at. Instead, they use Mr. Butler to engage in legal gymnastics to try to explain why the voters are being deprived of choices.

As City Hall chose a divisive and contentious course through alliance with CCF/LHA and crafty lawyers, various councilmembers acknowledged that CCF and LHA had behaved badly and could not be trusted. There was also an acknowledgement that the Master Agreement was not really about healthcare at all. The basic needs of the people remain unmet.

Imagine if City Hall Chose to Unite with its People and Divide from CCF and LHA.

Just imagine if City Hall chose to divide itself from CCF/LHA by overturning the agreement or even remaining neutral and letting the people make their own choice at the ballot box as soon as possible. Just imagine if City Hall chose to open the bidding process and an honest and reliable partner came in to buy or lease the existing facility as a full service hospital. Since no other party was ever offered to bid on what CCF was offered on the inside “sham” track, just imagine if a more honorable competitor was given that opportunity and offered to do the same thing as CCF has “promised” and we actually got some money for our valuable beds licenses, equipment and real estate at fair market value---likely yielding tens of millions of dollars, rather than just giving it to CCF for free. Just imagine if City Hall stopped pretending that the Master Agreement was improved healthcare when everyone knows that is not true.

Just imagine if City Hall had a reunion with its people instead of fighting them and siding with an outsider.

Read More on Lakewood Health Care
Volume 12, Issue 5, Posted 11:28 AM, 03.01.2016