2018 in health care news – Crain's Cleveland Business

By | December 26, 2018

Northeast Ohio’s health care scene saw closures, new beginnings and everything in between in 2018.

From new buildings to shuttered hospitals, from new leaders to continuing initiatives, the region’s health-care landscape continues to evolve.

Affinity Medical Center and Northside Regional Medical Center both closed this year as Cleveland Clinic Akron General’s new emergency department and the Clinic’s Lakewood Family Health Center opened their doors.

Akron Children’s Hospital’s leader stepped down as the Clinic’s new leader closes out his first year at the helm. Summa’s interim CEO took on the role permanently as the system potentially begins a new chapter in its history while it searches for a new health system partner.

Cleveland Clinic expanded nationally and internationally while maintaining its primary focus in Ohio. University Hospitals weathered the storm of a high-profile crisis at its fertility clinic.

MetroHealth snagged headlines throughout the year for its work in the battle against the opioid epidemic, the unveiling of its new hospital design and its now-possible efforts to expand beyond Cuyahoga County.

Here are Crain’s picks for the top health care stories of 2018.

10. End of an era

After nearly 40 years leading Akron Children’s Hospital, CEO William Considine stepped down, transitioning to the role of CEO emeritus with a focus on child advocacy issues, a title he’ll hold through Jan. 1, 2020. Grace Wakulchik, a longtime executive of the hospital, is taking on the role of CEO.

9. MetroHealth’s new hospital

MetroHealth this year unveiled the design for its new hospital, the centerpiece of an ambitious, nearly $ 1 billion transformation plan. The new 11-story building, surrounded by acres of green space, will replace the familiar but aging patient towers on the system’s West 25th Street main campus.

8. MetroHealth’s opioid battle

In October, MetroHealth acquired Recovery Resources, a community-based outpatient behavioral health services organization. It was the latest in MetroHealth’s relentless battle against the opioid epidemic. This year alone, the system pursued litigation against opioid drug manufacturers and marketers, launched a podcast on the topic and announced it had curbed opioid prescribing among its providers by 3 million pills over an 18-month period.

7. Hospital closures

Affinity Medical Center, a 156-bed acute-care hospital in Massillon, closed its doors in early February, citing declining revenues, increasing provider compensation and a highly competitive market. In September, Northside Regional Medical Center in Youngstown also closed, resulting in a loss of 388 jobs, according to The Vindicator.

6. Medical marijuana

Ohio’s medical marijuana control program technically went into effect in September, but rolled out slower than expected after hitting some roadblocks on the way to implementation. “After a number of delays, small amounts of medical marijuana are expected to be available in Ohio before the end of the year,” reports WKSU.

5. Cleveland Clinic/Oscar Health success

A co-branded insurance product from Cleveland Clinic and New York City-based Oscar Health exceeded the partners’ expectations in their first year working together, securing what they estimate to be a 15% share of the individual market in the 2018 open enrollment season. The two are looking to capitalize on that success as they enter the second year of the partnership, which marked the Clinic’s first heavy play in the insurance business.

4. University Hospitals fertility clinic crisis

Early in the year, University Hospitals faced a high-profile crisis with its fertility clinic. In March, an unexpected temperature fluctuation in storage tanks affected thousands of eggs and embryos, rendering them unviable. By the end of the second quarter, despite a flurry of pending litigation, the system hadn’t seen an impact in volume and in fact saw the volume of individuals seeking fertility services rise year over year.

3. MetroHealth pushes beyond Cuyahoga

Changes to state law this year opened the door for MetroHealth to push its presence beyond Cuyahoga County. The legislation, which went into effect in September, allowed the health system to establish hospital facilities in eight other counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit and Wayne. In December, the system opened the MetroHealth Medina Health Center, a move made possible by the change.

2. Cleveland Clinic expansions

This year, Cleveland Clinic announced a foray into China and brought a Florida hospital and health system into its network (Indian River Medical Center and the three-hospital Martin Health System). Despite these major plays outside the state, president and CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, who is wrapping up his first year at the helm, stressed in late summer that the Clinic’s primary commitment “has been and always will be here in Ohio.” Also of note, the Clinic formally brought Union Hospital into its system.

1. Summa Health’s new leader

Summa Health’s board of directors named Dr. Cliff Deveny, who helped the system achieve a $ 43 million turnaround of its finances this year, as its permanent president and CEO after he’d been in that role on an interim basis for about a year and a half. Notably, he’ll lead the system as it searches for a new partner health system.

BONUS: Also this year, my editors let me (in fact, I believe it was their idea) write about my viral tweet sharing my family’s peach-loving cat. Ozzy spends peach season guarding and snuggling with the peaches my mom spreads out to ripen. He’s adorable, so I’m using my year-in-review roundup to give you an excuse to look at Ozzy again. Happy holidays!

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