Changes at GMH raise levy questions


By Scott Halasz - shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com



XENIA — Greene County residents have likely voted on their last property tax levy for Greene Memorial Hospital.

As Kettering Health Network — which owns GMH — is in the process of consolidating services, county officials no longer feel the intent of a pair of half-mil operating levies that have regularly been renewed is being honored. The hospital’s ICU was closed in February when an intensivist group that covered that unit left the hospital. The emergency room no longer has trauma designation, and most recently, hospital leadership made the decision to keep operating rooms closed in perpetuity, according to county officials.

The operating rooms were originally shut down when the state health department halted elective surgeries due to the coronavirus. The county can’t do anything about the levies now, but can and appeared poised to do so in the future.

“While we do not believe the changes are in line with the levy language and intent of the voters, we have been advised that the commissioners do not have the legal authority to stop collections and disbursements from a properly voted issue,” County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said in an email. “However, based on these new developments, I would not expect GMH to request a renewal of the levies that expire in 2021 and 2023 nor would I expect the commissioners to approve them if they did.”

KHN Marketing and Communications Director Jimmy Phillips said, “These levies are and will continue to be vital to our mission of providing high quality health care in Xenia,” when asked about future renewal requests.

Phillips confirmed staffing changes that will impact 122 roles at Greene. And while 76 have found new roles within KHN, hospital officials say they are not abandoning the county seat as 300 employees will remain at GMH.

“Kettering Health Network is committed to the community of Xenia long-term,” Phillips said. “We will begin to develop plans for a new health care facility within the city limits of Xenia on land that we own on Progress Drive at the REACH Center, near the YMCA. As plans develop on this exciting new facility, more information will be shared with staff, local leaders and the community at large.”

Phillips said GMH will continue to be licensed as a 49-bed hospital and will staff to patient volume, not a specific number of beds or limit the number of patients. Patients who come to GMH and can not receive the level of care they need will be transported to an appropriate location through a partnership with KHN-owned Kettering Mobile Care and Buckeye Ambulance.

“With the changes at Greene, it is certain types of patients will be taken to other facilities in Kettering Health Network,” Phillips said. “The most likely destination … will be Soin Medical Center. As far as transportation goes, nothing has changed. We will continue to transport patients as we have been and continue to do throughout our entire network.”

As of press time, Phillips could not confirm if patients are charged for such transportation.

Huddleson said he is concerned about the decrease in services.

“Obviously, these decisions are a huge blow to the availability of crucial services in eastern Greene County and to the medical professionals who rely on the hospital for employment,” he said. “Obviously, people have fewer options for critical care close to home with the loss of the trauma designation, closure of the operating rooms and ICU. If you live in the eastern half of the county, you now have to travel farther to secure services you could have received right here before. We worry about those with life-threatening issues when time-to-care makes such a difference in their outcomes.”

Phillips said KHN will “continue to honor the intent” of the active operating levies. One of the levies was renewed 62-37 percent in November 2018.

The levies provide health and hospital services, including stroke and cardiac care, rural health clinics, emergency room services and equipment, and satellite facilities; and for the purchasing of equipment serving emergency, nursing, cancer, women’s health, and other services at GMH, according to the April quarterly report sent to the county, which was obtained through a public records request. According to the report, the levies provide about 6 percent of the hospital’s operating budget. The report indicates the network purchased several pieces of equipment.

Without an ER with trauma designation, operating rooms and and ICU, Huddleson questioned how the levies can continue to be honored.

“The levies were intended to support a fully functional hospital and we do not believe GMH is fully functional,” he said.

By Scott Halasz

shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.