Major expansion of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center approved
The Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a $500 million-$650 million expansion of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The 6-3 vote came after Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center CEO Michael Fisher rebuffed a City Council member request to invest 5% of the project’s value back into the neighborhood for housing and other improvements.
In a letter to the City Council and Mayor John Cranley, Fisher rejected the request of $14 million that was in addition to $11.5 million that Children’s plans to spend on the Avondale neighborhood over the next five years.
Two City Councilors tried to require the medical center to give the additional $14 million to the city, but that motion failed by a close 5-4 vote.
The hospital expansion includes a new eight-story, 600,000 square-foot critical care building with 120 beds and expanded pharmacy intensive care and emergency facilities. Neighbors opposed the expansion plan, which includes the hospital buying and removing dozens of houses.
The expansion plan is the latest major hospital expanding its facilities and often gobbling up homes in the process. Many times, these neighborhoods are poor areas. For instance, another leading hospital in Ohio, Cleveland Clinic, is planning an $8 billion expansion in a neighborhood that’s struggling financially.
For neighborhoods in cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati, they get to enjoy the care of some of the top hospitals in the country, but it can come with a neighborhood sacrifice.
Medical facilities are often a welcomed neighbor in depressed neighborhoods. They provide quality care and bring jobs into communities that are struggling financially. Nonprofit hospitals also provide community benefits in lieu of taxes. These benefits are meant to “serve the healthcare needs of the community” and can include charity care and community health programs, such as providing diabetes programs if that’s a neighborhood issue.
On the other hand, a neighborhood can view a growing medical facility suspiciously, especially when it gobbles up residential housing, and a city government can feel burned that a nonprofit hospital isn't paying taxes. This dynamic leads to hospitals and cities playing a delicate dance.
In the Cincinnati case, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will bring needed medical care for children and $11.5 million that can be reinvested back into the neighborhood. However, that comes with a neighborhood losing dozens of homes.
There are no easy solutions to these thorny situations. The first step is for hospitals to speak regularly to their community leaders to find out the best way to help those communities. Working together won't always resolve all issues, but listening to neighbor and community concerns, providing top-notch care and investing back into the community can go a long way to resolving these kinds of problems.
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