Kettering Health Network’s rezoning request in Middletown clears first hurdle

A vote by the Middletown Planning Commission has paved the way for Kettering Health Network to allow overnight stays at its new Middletown facility, something its competitor — Premier Health's Atrium Medical Center — says can't be successfully supported by the community.

After close to four hours of presentations, testimony and discussion, the planning commission voted 4-1 to approve the rezoning request of Kettering Health Network for its Middletown facility that opened this past August. Middletown City Council will have the final say on approval at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Employees from Kettering Health Network and Premier Health, as well as local residents, spoke for and against the request. Some Atrium Medical Center physicians questioned the need for additional inpatient beds and said that will lead to increased costs for consumers.

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

Kettering Health Network officials said the rezoning is needed to enable patients to stay in Middletown for more than 24 hours rather than be transferred to other facilities.

“Since opening in August, we have taken care of 6,000 patients and their families. … We started faster than we estimated,” said Daniel Tryon, Kettering Health Network Middletown medical center executive director/administrator.

Tryon noted the fast changing healthcare industry and said Kettering had two options to address the growing need — expand their existing facilities or build facilities closer to its Middletown patients. He said patients want choice and access.

Premier Health officials opposed the Kettering Health Network request, saying it would duplicate services and that there are more than enough hospital beds available at their facility less than one mile away. Premier Health also cited its 101-year relationship with the city and previous master plans that designated the hospital as the anchor for the development of the East End/Renaissance District.

Mike Uhl, Atrium Medical Center president, said the discussion is about the future economic growth of the city.

“The economics just don’t work to support two hospitals in this community. They just don’t no matter how you slice it,” he said. “We won’t have a winner and a loser. We’ll have two losers.”

Uhl said he wanted to see the completion of the city’s new master plan, which is projected to be finalized in 2019. He said Premier Health is well-positioned for the future growth of the city along the Interstate 75 corridor.

Throughout the hearing, Premier Health officials also referenced the amount of funding it provides for various community programs — about $30 million a year.

During the public hearing, Michael Maiberger, Premier Health’s chief operating officer, said the healthcare system does not fear competition, but it would require hospital officials to re-evaluate their business plan.

“It’s not going to be a win-win situation” Maiberger said.

Dr. William Andrew, who works for Premier Health, questioned the need for an additional emergency department, something he said could lead to increased costs.

“This is a race to the bottom,” he said. “We’re bystanders in the war between Kettering Health Network and Premier (Health).”

Several residents also commented during the meeting, saying that Atrium does not accept some health insurance plans, including those that are available through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. That issue and the economic impact also concerned some planning commission members, who said choice and access were critical to the underserved in the city.

This was the second time Kettering Health Network has made the rezoning request. In September 2017, the planning commission denied Kettering Health Network’s rezoning request even though city officials recommended approval. Kettering Health Network withdrew the request before it went to City Council, which has to approve planning commission decisions.

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