Dennis Kucinich says Cleveland Clinic "engineered" community hospital's decline

Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. Representative and mayor of Cleveland, said evidence shows Cleveland Clinic "engineered a steady decline" of its 263-bed community hospital in Lakewood, according to a Cleveland.com report.

Former U.S. Rep. Kucinich made the comment in support of the SaveLakewoodHospital group. He referred to 2012 documents that discussed moving services from LakewoodHospital to other Cleveland Clinic hospitals.

For the past eight months, Lakewood City Council has debated a proposal from the Clinic and Lakewood Hospital Association to close LakewoodHospital  and replace it with a family health center and emergency department. The Clinic and LHA cite slipping patient revenues as the primary cause for closure, according to the report.

A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman denied the claim that the health system engineered LakewoodHospital's decline. It released a statement saying it has been proud to manage the hospital for the last 20 years and remains committed to the Lakewood community. The spokeswoman also said management teams at the Clinic and Lakewood Hospital were growing concerned over declining patient volumes and "began to explore all options to correct the low-volume trend," according to the report.

In opposition of the closure, former U.S. Rep. Kucinich and members of SaveLakewoodHospital said the city should require Cleveland Clinic to continue operating LakewoodHospital for the remainder of an agreement that extends through 2026.

"Today, LakewoodHospital is in a pivotal battle to determine whether it will survive as a community hospital," former U.S. Rep. Kucinich told the crowd, according to the report. "It is said by those supporting the closing of the hospital that it is losing patients and losing revenue and cannot financially sustain itself. But a careful analysis of the record, together with documents, which recently surfaced in a lawsuit, will show that the Cleveland Clinic engineered a steady decline of LakewoodHospital. One that can be reversed."

He also said City Council should not close the hospital without allowing the people of Lakewood to vote on the issue.

Members from rival group Build Lakewood, who favor Cleveland Clinic's proposal and redeveloping LakewoodHospital's property, challenged some of the former representative's claims. Councilman Thomas Bullock, a member of the Lakewood Hospital Association board, accused former U.S. Rep. Kucinich and mayoral candidate Michael Skindell of politicizing the issue. Mr. Bullock interjected during former U.S. Rep. Kucinich comments, saying he didn't have all of his facts straight.

"Kucinich has no credibility on this issue," Mr. Bullock said after the press conference, explaining that if former U.S. Rep. Kucinich really wanted to help, he should have tried to raise federal or state funding to benefit the hospital instead of making "attention-seeking, inflammatory comments," Mr. Bullock said.

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