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Exclusive: Years later, West Dayton still calling on officials to address healthcare

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DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF) -- West Dayton residents have been protesting all month, calling for a hospital in the area. Three years ago, Good Samaritan Hospital closed its doors-and protesters say it’s caused a healthcare crisis.

Bishop Richard Cox with the Clergy Community Coalition tells me many protesters feel that Premier Health closed Good Samaritan hospital because the majority of patients who went there were uninsured or used Medicaid. He added that West Dayton’s healthcare desert is negatively affecting all aspects of residents’ health.

“On the west side, we have the highest infant mortality rate. We needed the hospital during the pandemic, a hospital is gone, and the people felt like they’ve been locked out and left out,” Cox said.

Cox tells me after the demolition of Good Samaritan hospital in 2018, the organization filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services, saying Premier Health’s decision to close the facility was discriminatory against African Americans and women. Federal investigators interviewed more than a hundred residents about it in 2019, but Cox says so far he hasn’t heard back.

“Many people who know they can’t get adequate healthcare do nothing, so they don’t go to the doctor, they just take their illnesses and hope that God will give them a long life,” Cox explained.

Dayton City Commissioner Darryl Fairchild tells me West Dayton has historically been an underserved area of the city.

“The places we have challenges are places that haven’t been places of opportunity, and often those map right along redlining that was racially based,” Fairchild said.

Fairchild tells me it appears Premier Health's decision to demolish the hospital was financially motivated.

I reached out to Premier Health. They sent us this statement:

“While health care is changing, Premier Health’s mission is not, and we remain committed to identifying innovative approaches to improve the health of all communities we serve in partnership with like-minded organizations, as we have for more than 130 years. We hope to have more information to share soon about the redevelopment of the former Good Samaritan Hospital campus at Salem Avenue and Philadelphia Drive.”

I asked Fairchild if the city of Dayton was working to allocate some of the $138 million COVID-19 relief funding to rebuilding a new hospital.

He responded, “If the city is doing anything to leverage any facility, I’m not aware of the current endeavor to do that.”

Cox tells me protesters are calling on the city of Dayton to collaborate with Premier Health and Montgomery County to address West Dayton’s healthcare crisis, so I asked Fairchild if anything is in the works.

“Not that, there’s not a plan. I think what you have is a situation with people with multiple interests, and we can’t get a reconciliation of those interests,” Fairchild said.

Fairchild added that the issue boils down to the city’s ability to encourage independent providers like Premier or to invest in West Dayton.

“I think this would be a great time to look at all of the hospital community needs assessment, look at all the gaps, particularly when you look around and see other health facilities popping up in communities. It looks like those are being driven for people's convenience, right, you know there are already facilities in a location, and another one is popping up so it can be convenient for people to get access to healthcare, and we have citizens in Dayton, it’s not convenient, it’s more life or death.”

Fairchild says that every hospital has a responsibility to have a community needs assessment every three years and believes it would be helpful if the public had access to them.

Meanwhile, Cox says that West Daytonians plan on protesting in Washington D.C. since the closure of hospitals in underserved communities is a national trend.

“We need a hospital in this community, and the Clergy Community Coalition is not going to stop until our voices are heard,” Cox said.

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