740 Atrium staff, supporters sign petition opposing Kettering Health’s request to expand

Middletown Planning Commission will consider a rezoning request by Kettering Health Network at a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Middletown City Building. Atrium Medical Center and Premier Health are opposing the proposed rezoning.
Middletown Planning Commission will consider a rezoning request by Kettering Health Network at a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Middletown City Building. Atrium Medical Center and Premier Health are opposing the proposed rezoning.

About 740 Atrium Medical Center staff, physicians, board members, volunteers and community supporters have sent a petition to the Middletown Planning Commission opposing the proposed rezoning request by Kettering Health Network to provide an expanded scope of medical services including overnight patient stays.

City officials received the 62-page letter and petition on Tuesday, the day before the Planning Commission considers the rezoning request at a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the Middletown City Building.

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The current zoning does not allow Kettering Health Network the option of having patients stay overnight at its Middletown facility, which is less than one mile from the Atrium Medical Center campus.

While city planner Ashley Combs has not made a formal recommendation in her staff report on this re-zoning request, the city’s economic development department is supportive of the Kettering Health Network request noting that its “a natural outgrowth of the plan to serve the community.”

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Combs has previously said that there’s nothing in the city’s ordinances and current development and zoning codes that prevent having two hospital facilities.

In their letter, Atrium employees restated the positions that were sent last week by its top officials.

“… our present concerns have nothing to do with competition but instead center on the implications of adding unnecessary inpatient beds to the Middletown community at a time when demand for inpatient services continues to shrink.”

The letter also cited the 100-year relationship between the city and the hospital and noted the hospital has made investments and worked with city officials to develop the area as a gateway.In addition to being a good corporate citizen, the letter noted Atrium is the city’s second largest employer that provides more than $30 million in charity care and about $1.2 million annually in city income taxes.

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The letter also noted:

  • Care is continuing to shift from the inpatient to outpatient setting. They said the rezoning would drive health care costs higher due to overbedding. It also said Atrium was not operating at its full occupancy rate and has plenty of inpatient capacity to serve the community.
  • Duplicative services could put at risk Atrium's comprehensive spectrum of health care services.
  • Atrium and other local hospitals already have significant vacancy rates for certain key positions due to the limited number of health care workers available locally, adding this could exacerbate this shortage by adding more inpatient beds.
  • Rezoning this property also could force Premier Health officials to reconsider the course of future economic development within the city of Middletown.
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Kettering Health Network filed its rezoning request last month and said that patients at the medical center, which includes an emergency center, sometimes need more involved medical treatment or need to stay longer than 24 hours.

“We are responding to requests for choice from our patients and our community who want more direct access to Kettering Health Network and our approach to high quality healthcare in this unique Middletown facility,” said Daniel Tryon, Kettering Health Network Middletown executive director/administrator. “Patients regularly have to leave the Middletown medical complex because they need care for more than 24 hours. Rezoning would allow patients to stay closer to home for care. It also will allow Kettering Health Network to grow with Middletown and plan for future growth.”

Inpatient beds were not part of the original proposal for the medical center, reviewed by the city in May 2017. At a September 2017 planning commission meeting about rezoning to allow inpatient beds, Kettering Health Network officials told the planning commission that the idea for expanded and overnight services had evolved as the Middletown project began. The request also had the support of city staff.

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The planning commission denied a previous request from Kettering Health Network to have inpatient beds at the medical center. In the days leading up to the September 2017 decision, leaders from both hospitals sent a flurry of emails to the city, with each health network working to sway Middletown officials to their stance.

At the meeting, Premier Health and Atrium officials, as well as a number of supportive residents, put pressure on the Planning Commission to deny the request. They also included a warning of “a number of unintended consequences” if the request was approved.

Shortly after the decision, Kettering Health Network withdrew its request.

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