Hospitals

Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital welcomes protesters, but …

Administrators at Summa Health System expect about 50 protestors and their families this evening at Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. The hospital’s board is meeting tonight, and rumor has it that board members will vote on whether to close the obstetrics department at the hospital. That rumor is false, said health system spokesman Mike Bernstein. “There is no vote on the agenda tonight to close any unit of any kind in the facility,” Bernstein said.

WADSWORTH, Ohio — Administrators at Summa Health System expect about 50 protesters and their families this evening at Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital.

The hospital’s board is meeting tonight, and rumor has it that board members will vote on whether to close the obstetrics department at the hospital.

That rumor is false, said health system spokesman Mike Bernstein. “At this time, there have been no decisions made to make any changes,” Bernstein said. “There is no vote on the agenda tonight to close any unit of any kind in the facility.”

But there is a basis for the rumor. Summa is “in the midst of a thorough review of our entire offering of women’s health services to ensure the community’s being cared for appropriately,” Bernstein said. Specifically, the Akron-based health system is reviewing women’s health units at Summa Wadsworth-Rittman and at Summa Barberton Hospital, which share a region, he said.

Summa agreed to acquire Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital in 2007. “We started 2007 with three hospitals, and we finished with six,” Bernstein said. “I think that the review is part of the natural progression when you grow.” 

Summa closed the obstetrics unit at Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital a year ago because it was not serving enough patients, Bernstein said. “We were delivering a couple babies a day,” he said. Now owned by its physicians, that hospital goes by the name Summa Western Reserve Hospital.

The Akron health system is not alone in rationalizing its obstetrics operations. “In general, there is a trend nationally that a lot of the units are leaving the community hospitals, they’re going to the bigger, tertiary care hospitals,” Bernstein said. 

Seven in ten women who live near Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital  are giving birth outside of the region, Bernstein said. “So we’re actually delivering less than one baby a day at the hospital,” he said.

“Certainly, we understand the passion the community has for [the hospital]. We also have an obligation to make sure that we’re … caring for the community, and that we’re serving all the people in those facilities appropriately.”

Bernstein said the women’s health services review likely will be completed within two weeks. After that, he expects a decision about the Wadsworth-Rittman obstetrics department.

As for tonight, Summa will welcome the protesters. “This is our property. We have no intention of telling [the protesters] they can’t come and do this on our property. So we do very much take into consideration the community,” Bernstein said. “And we do appreciate the passion that these people are showing for the hospital. We share it. We understand it. We want them to be heard.”

Will Summa leaders consider the protesters when they make their decision about the obstetrics unit? “Absolutely,” Bernstein said. But the protest is “part of the equation, it can’t be the driving force,” he said.