This past Tuesday's announcement that the former St. Joseph's Hospital will be closed sometime in the future was not a bolt from the blue.
The closing was expected and was the inevitable consequence of the 2011 merger between St. Joseph's and Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, which created Camden Clark Medical Center and two "campuses."
"Our board decided to consolidate the two locations at the Memorial campus, Camden Clark Medical Center CEO Mike King told the newspaper. "This is the right thing to do for this community in the long term of building a hospital we all deserve.
King says one hospital will be a stronger by having all departments under one roof and not spread out over two locations. And no doubt he is correct. For one thing, the $20 million now going into St. Joseph's annually for basic upkeep can instead go into such things as Camden Clark's emergency room - which will be necessary with the closure of St. Joseph's. It also will allow for new services, which, according to King, may include private rooms.
However for many, closure of the nearly 112-year-old facility that has been such a part of the city's history is more about the past than the future. Many families chose their hospital like they would choose their family's grocery. To these people, St. Joseph's was a part of their family - their children were born there; beloved family members passed away within those walls. And losing this hospital is, to them, almost like a death in their family.
Unfortunately, financial reality dictates this move. St. Joseph's previous owners did little to help the situation by not putting money into maintaining buildings. Several of the hospital's wings have been closed since the merger, not because of the consolidation, but because of neglect. And, as we all know, hospital care is changing. Many procedures that once kept patients in the hospital for several days are now regularly done on an out-patient basis. In fact, the day King told the St. Joseph employees about the closing, only 50 beds were occupied by patients in the facility.
The closing will, unfortunately, mean some employees will lose their jobs. This is the unfortunate part of any consolidation, but King said this will be kept as minimal as possible. We hope this is true.
The closing also could open new economic possibilities for the property. While King said several rumors concerning the property's future are unfounded, he and the hospital's board would work with anyone interested in that location. It seems that property and its location should make it popular for something that would benefit the area.
St. Joseph's Hospital played a big part of this city's past and will be missed. But because of factors beyond the employees' control, the facility was not in position to deal with the new realities of health care in the Mid-Ohio Valley.