Federal investigators are in Dayton interviewing residents who say they were harmed by the closure of Good Samaritan Hospital.
A civil rights complaint was filed one year ago, saying Premier Health’s plan to close the Philadelphia Drive hospital — including its ER and maternity services — would harm black residents and women.
Good Samaritan was the closest hospital for 38,600 people in the area — 75 percent who are African American — and the two census tracks most aligned with the hospital are 85 percent African American, the complaint states.
The Rev. M. Merritt Worthen, vice president of the Clergy Community Coalition, said some of the reasons the loss of the hospital has caused harm are because people lost access to their doctor, because of transportation challenges getting to the next hospital and because emergency services are now farther away.
“Where in other areas of the city, we are seeing hospitals are being put up close to other hospitals, being sure that it is close by for other people,” Worthen said.
She said they coalition set up interviews for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and are trying to get about 140 people in to speak with the federal officials.
Premier Health said in a statement that the health system has provided information to the investigation and will cooperate with any additional investigation.
“We do not believe that the allegations have merit, as Premier Health continues to be the largest provider of indigent services in our region and one of the largest providers of such services in the state of Ohio,” Premier stated.
Officials with Dayton-based Premier have previously said that the high cost of maintaining the outdated facility, the declining population in the city of Dayton and the consumer shift from to outpatient services were all part of the reason for closing the hospital.
Premier said about 90 percent of those who worked at Good Sam are now working somewhere else in the health network and while Good Sam was still open, about a third of inpatient cases at Miami Valley Hospital were patients from Good Sam’s primary service area, which is a sign that Miami Valley is accessible to residents near Good Samaritan.
“Depending on where someone resides in Northwest Dayton, another adult hospital is within approximately two to three miles; Dayton Children’s is within approximately three-and-a-half to five miles,” Premier stated.
Five Rivers Health Centers, which serves patients on a sliding-fee scale based on income, is still in operation across from the hospital campus.
The hospital campus is currently being torn down.
When the complaint was filed in May 2018, the clergy’s position was that Premier should continue to provide major health care services at Good Samaritan’s existing facilities or at newly built facilities, or Premier should make Good Samaritan facilities available to another health care organization. In addition, the coalition said Premier should provide more funds to the community beyond the $10 million the health system pledged toward redeveloping the site.
The Office of Civil Rights with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating the complaint.
Investigators will gather more information and eventually issue a decision on whether civil rights have been violated, according to the office’s bylaws. If the office determines that residents have had their civil rights violated, the hospital would be forced to take corrective action or risk enforcement proceedings that could mean a loss of federal funding, according to the attorneys in the case.