Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said “we’re looking at all our options” when asked Friday whether the city was considering taking Premier Health to court to fight the planned closure of Good Samaritan Hospital this year.
The idea was proposed by Democratic governor candidate Dennis Kucinich, who met with University of Dayton students and local Democrats at an event Thursday evening.
“It has a destructive undermining effect to local communities, and never should a hospital close without a fight,” Kucinich said in a telephone interview before the meeting.
Kucinich contacted Dayton city officials Friday to discuss options.
Whaley, who endorsed Richard Cordray for governor when she dropped out of the race this month, questioned Kucinich’s motives in an interview Friday.
“Obviously he’s just trying to make this a political game for his governor’s race. And our interest is what’s in the best interest of our community, not his political game,” she said.
She said the city’s legal department is assessing their options.
Kucinich said lawsuits could be filed in local and federal court arguing Premier is violating the civil rights of the community by closing a hospital that is relied on by a lower-income, largely minority area.
“Sometimes if you move quickly enough there may be a chance to change the outcome,” he said. “Hospitals do have an obligation to serve people in communities where people don’t have a lot of money.”
Kucinich was involved in fighting to prevent hospital closures in Cleveland — efforts that he says delayed the closure of one hospital by three years and kept the other open to this day.
“I’ve always felt there should be state or federal legislation that at a minimum requires broad and detailed advance notice to local officials of the intent to substantially reduce service at hospitals,” he said.
“Citizens have a right to have access to hospital facilities that are truly local and that, in fact, were originally most often built by, and at the expense of, their community.”
Premier Health declined to comment on Kucinich’s comments Friday.
Kucinich earlier this month attended a rally and urged the city of Massillon in northeast Ohio to use eminent domain to stop a planned hospital closure there. In that case, Affinity Medical Center officials announced this month that financial losses will force them to cease operations by Feb. 4.
Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry said Friday that eminent domain was an unlikely option because of how long that process takes.
The city has filed for a temporary restraining order to keep the facility open. Catazaro-Perry said they hope to slow down the closure so that residents can continue to get medical care while they try to find someone else to come in and take over the hospital with the city’s help.
John Palmer, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association, said Friday that market pressures and demographic changes are forcing hospitals to change how they do business, and since they are private entities he’s not aware of any legal grounds a city would have to prevent that.
He said 60 hospitals across Ohio are operating at an operating margin of 2 percent or below. And of those, 43 are at a negative operating margin, he said.
“The economics facing hospitals are very intense in many cases,” he said.