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City of Bedford denied restraining order to prevent University Hospitals from closing emergency room, ending inpatient services at medical center

On Friday, University Hospitals is scheduled to close the inpatient and emergency departments at both UH Richmond and Bedford Medical Centers.

BEDFORD, Ohio — Update: Aug 12, 2022

Bedford Mayor Stanley Koci told 3News that the temporary restraining order was rejected. The judge has set a hearing for Tuesday to re-evaluate the issue.

Original Story

On the day before University Hospitals is scheduled to end inpatient and emergency room services at two of its suburban medical centers, one Northeast Ohio community is suing to stop the closure. 

The city of Bedford has filed a restraining order in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court seeking to prevent the closing of UH Bedford Hospital. 

As 3News' Monica Robins first reported, University Hospitals Health System announced on July 14 that it will be closing two of its suburban hospitals and emergency departments at UH Richmond and Bedford medical centers effective on Aug. 12. UH citied an unprecedented staffing shortage as the reason for the move. 

In its restraining order filing, the city of Bedford accuses UH of "creating a healthcare desert in an already struggling community" by making the decision to close the hospital. "Essentially, the residents of Bedford and neighboring communities are left with no viable healthcare option in emergency situations, and will suffer irreparable harm with increased morbidity and mortality rates," the filing states.

"They (UH) had to know this was coming for a long time and didn't give any advanced notice warning even though we met monthly with the hospital people," Mayor Koci told 3News' Emma Henderson on Thursday.

3News reached out to UH for reaction to the restraining order filing. They had no comment and directed us to their release of July 14, which explained the reasons for discontinuing services at UH Richmond and UH Bedford.

Once the inpatient and emergency departments at both UH Richmond and Bedford Medical Centers are closed, those services will be consolidated into the expanding Ahuja Medical Center, six miles from Bedford. A similar transition for UH Richmond will take place at UH Lake West, just six miles from Richmond Heights.

"A lot of people use this hospital," Koci added. "Between here (Bedford) and northern Akron, there's no other hospital."

UH notes that its Richmond and Bedford hospitals are among the smallest and least utilized within their system. Since October, each hospital dropped from 50 to 14 inpatient beds. The hospital system says the two centers are also the oldest — Bedford opened in 1928, Richmond in 1961. But because of the staffing shortage, they've decreased capacity significantly.

"We are very concerned about the life-or-death implications this will surely have on Bedford and several southeastern communities," Koci wrote in a statement announcing the filing. "We plan to aggressively challenge this reckless and irresponsible decision to close, especially with such short notice."

According to a release from the city of Bedford, nearly 100,000 residents live within five miles of the proposed closure. The city says longer travel times to hospitals for EMS squads would add both miles and minutes, potentially the difference between life or death. 

"When it comes to the cardiac arrest, time is crucial," Bedford Fire Chief Dave Nagy added. "Every passing minute reduces the chance of survival. The increased travel times for families and our EMS squads traveling to get to other hospitals will unquestionably put patients at greater risk."

More than 600 employees will be impacted, including 337 at Richmond and 280 at Bedford, but there will be no layoffs and all employees will be absorbed into other UH facilities. The city says UH Bedford is its largest employer, providing almost 1,000 jobs for local residents. The filing also notes that closing UH Bedford would cause the city to lose almost $1 million in annual tax revenue, "creating further financial constraints" on the community's already compressed budget. 

"We implore UH to revisit this decision," Koci added. "We've asked them to reconsider or at minimum, delay their closing until alternative plans can be made, but they’ve declined. In healthcare we can't afford to be hard-nosed or hard-hearted, looking at the bottom-line without concern for potential consequences. We must consider the human dimension and what their decision will mean to the people in the County's southeast side."

You can read the filing from the city of Bedford below:

Previous Reporting:

 

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