Emails: Health systems each worked to sway Middletown on rezoning

Before Kettering Health Network pulled its rezoning request to allow overnight patient stays at its $30 million facility under construction in Middletown, the healthcare organization and its main competitor in the region — Premier Health — each worked to sway Middletown City Council to support their opposite stances on the proposal.

More than 300 emails were sent to city leaders since Middletown Planning Commission denied Kettering Health’s rezoning request last month as both sides lobbied for council support of their side.

A super-majority of council members, four of the five members, was required to reverse the planning commission recommendation.

City staff had recommended approving the request to the planning commission and city council.

Kettering Health Network will continue to build its 63,000-square-foot medical facility on land it purchased in Middletown on Ohio 122 just southeast of Interstate 75. The health network, however, has withdrawn requests to rezone the land so the facility could include as many as 20 beds for overnight patients stays.

During the required 30-day notice period between the planning commission meeting and next council meeting, Kettering Health officials met separately with council members to explain their desire to add as many as 20 beds for overnight patient stays at the 63,000-square-foot facility slated to open in mid-2018.

Kettering Health needed the two parcels off Ohio 122 at Union Road, about a mile south of Atrium Medical Center, to be rezoned as the current zoning code was written as part of the incentives to have the hospital, now Atrium Medical Center, built there. While other types of healthcare facilities were permitted uses, there was a specific category for hospitals for patient stays for 24 hours or more.

Kettering Health gave no reason for withdrawing the requests, which the city received about noon Monday from Richard Haas, Kettering Health senior vice president.

“Our decision to withdraw our rezoning request has no impact on our original plans for the medical facility,” Elizabeth Long, Kettering Health spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Our services will include a freestanding Emergency Department; outpatient services such as Lab and Radiology; and a Physician Office Building. Construction is on track and we will be caring for patients by mid-2018. We are enjoying a great partnership with Middletown city leaders and we look forward to furthering our involvement in the Middletown community.

In a letter to Mayor Larry Mulligan urging for council to uphold the planning commission’s decision, David Pearce, a former Middletown Regional Hospital board member, said “the zoning was intentionally crafted with the $300 million hospital as the key centerpiece/stakeholder.”

Pearce said that in the past 17 years “nothing has changed and the zoning remains critical to the hospital’s (and its partners’) success.”

That zoning for the hospital was part of the city’s master plan adopted in 2005.

Premier Health employees and other community supporters emailed dozens of letters to council members to uphold the planning commission’s decision. A number of the email letters contained the same paragraphs with Premier Health’s main points:

  • That they believe in providing quality health care to the Middletown community and are proud of the hospital's 100 years of service.
  • That they want these high-quality services to continue and feel that the addition of "unnecessary" hospital beds would jeopardize Atrium's ability to continue offering specialty services.
  • That adding a second hospital in Middletown will not create new jobs long term, but could cost the jobs of those who have worked there for many years.

“Atrium Medical Center is proud to be the City of Middletown’s hospital. As evidenced by our 100-year legacy serving the community, we are committed to continually improving health services for Middletown area residents. Our patients come first,” Michael Uhl, president of Atrium Medical Center, said in a statement. “As a stakeholder in the City of Middletown’s economic development efforts, Atrium will continue to work with the city and others to revise the master plan. By working collaboratively to update the master plan, it could benefit all parties and promote the overall economic viability of the city.”

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