Mount Carmel Health System might move its inpatient hospital at the Mount Carmel West campus in Franklinton to Grove City, The Dispatch has learned. Though Mount Carmel would maintain a presence at its existing campus, most of the 372-bed hospital's more than 1,600 jobs are at stake. And a move likely would complicate the city's efforts to redevelop a downtrodden Franklinton neighborhood that is in the nascent stages of recovery.
Mount Carmel Health System might move its inpatient hospital at the Mount Carmel West campus in Franklinton to Grove City, The Dispatch has learned.
Though Mount Carmel would maintain a presence at its existing campus, most of the 372-bed hospital’s more than 1,600 jobs are at stake. And a move likely would complicate the city’s efforts to redevelop a downtrodden Franklinton neighborhood that is in the nascent stages of recovery.
Mount Carmel spokesman Jason Koma emphasized that “no decisions have been made” about relocating the hospital to Grove City. But he confirmed that the possibility of an inpatient hospital in Grove City was part of recent “scenario-development” meetings with employees.
“Mount Carmel Health System is committed to our mission of improving the health and wellness in the communities that we serve,” Koma said. “That includes the Franklinton community,” where Koma said the hospital has had a presence for more than 125 years.
The new hospital, if built, would be on the grounds of the Mount Carmel Grove City Medical Center, which is in the final stages of construction on Hoover Road near the intersection of I-71 and Rt. 665. A free-standing emergency department and an adjacent medical office building are to open there next year, but it would be at least five years before a bigger hospital opens on the more than 100 acres that Mount Carmel owns.
Mount Carmel has not yet approached its parent, Livonia, Mich.-based CHE Trinity Health, about funding a new hospital, according to an employee who attended one of the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity. The cost of such a hospital would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, this person said. It would have at least 200 inpatient beds.
Hospital officials told employees that many of the patients who stay in the hospital in Franklinton come from Grove City, and “they want to relocate so it’s more convenient for the consumer,” the employee said.
The employee said that if the hospital moves, Mount Carmel plans to maintain many services at the existing Franklinton campus, though it would no longer have acute-care inpatient beds. Those services that would remain include an obstetrics clinic and physical rehabilitation, as well as a possible expansion of psychiatric, drug and alcohol services.
Also, the hospital’s emergency department would remain, but patients who need to be admitted after treatment would be transferred to another hospital, the employee said.Nationwide, many city hospitals have relocated to the suburbs, where many of their more profitable patients live.Through a spokesman, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said Mount Carmel officials have “been unclear of their intentions” and that he is aware they might relocate some jobs.
“If they would elect to move those jobs out of the city, that would be extraordinarily disappointing and devastating to the West Side,” said Dan Williamson, Coleman’s spokesman. “ However, we are anxious to pursue any alternatives to keep those jobs in the city.”
It’s unknown how much income-tax revenue the 1,613 hospital jobs — which amount to the equivalent of 1,237 full-time jobs — generate for the city. If the average annual hospital salary is $50,000, the loss of those jobs would cost the city about $1.5 million a year in income-tax revenue.
But more important, the hospital’s relocation would complicate a partnership with the city to revitalize west Franklinton.
Coleman announced a plan in his State of the City address this year to use Mount Carmel as an anchor to rebuild the neighborhood, much like the partnerships with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to revitalize the Near East Side and University Hospital East on the East Side.
Those projects required millions of dollars of investment from Nationwide and Ohio State University, along with at least $5 million in public money for the two. The area around Mount Carmel West, which extends west of Rt. 315 to I-70, is in dire need of help to turn around a 27 percent home-vacancy rate and a 28 percent unemployment rate. Nearly 50?percent of residents there live below the poverty line, according to the city’s data.
Williamson said Coleman is fighting to keep the jobs in the city.
City development officials Cynthia Rickman and Bill Webster said they were aware that Mount Carmel is looking to relocate some medical operations to Grove City, but had no specifics to share late yesterday. They said Mount Carmel indicated it was still committed to Franklinton.
Franklinton community leaders were apprehensive about the possible loss of the inpatient hospital, long an anchor in the West Side neighborhood.
Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade, said he had heard rumors that Mount Carmel was considering a move.
“I hope it’s not true, and if it is true, I hope there’s some other conversation in play to fill that void,” Smith said. “That’s a real concern for the business community.”
He said a major change might rob Franklinton of the opportunity to work with Mount Carmel on revitalizing the neighborhood.
“It takes that potential partnership out of play,” Smith said.
Dr. Judy Box, chairwoman of the Franklinton Area Commission, said she’s not sure what the change would mean for the community. Box also is a physician who was on staff at Mount Carmel many years ago.
“If I can put my business hat on, instead of my Franklinton commission hat, I’d say I’m mystified as to why they would spend millions turning it into a first-class hospital and then pull out stakes,” she said.