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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Akron's Hospitals: Shrinking As Cleveland's Expand?

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- An organization that monitors the health care industry sees trouble brewing for Akron's hospitals as rivals The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals move forward with expansion plans. HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a Nashville firm that provides industry market intelligence, said population growth in NE Ohio is stagnant, which opens the door to the likelihood the Cleveland rivals will soon attempt to siphon business away from Akron. In other words, a squeeze appears in the offing. The market intelligence firm uses another description: A disruption in the existing hospital balance.

Its latest Cleveland Market Overview, summarized below by the company, says both the Clinic and University are undertaking billion-dollar-plus campaigns for new hospital facilities and expansion and renovation plans:

"The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that the city of Cleveland's population would fall below 400,000 in 2007," states Mark Cherry, HealthLeaders-InterStudy market analyst and author of the report. "However, both health systems are hoping to make the city a medical destination and attract patients from outside the immediate area."

"The most surprising building announcement was that of University Hospitals' new 200-bed hospital near Beachwood in an area of eastern Cuyahoga County that has been largely undeveloped. Expandable by up to 600 beds, University Hospitals' officials contend that the eastern suburbs need an acute-care hospital to serve the area's aging baby boomer population,and northern Summit County's affluent population growth. Though the two major health systems in the Akron market, Summa HealthSystem and Akron General Medical Center, have had affiliations with their Cleveland Clinic counterparts, they have enjoyed relative anonymity that may be lost if the rivalry between the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals spills into Summit County. University Hospitals' proposed Beachwood facility has the greatest chance of disrupting the boundaries between the Cleveland and Akron areas, and will draw people from the eastern suburbs in greater numbers than the existing small community hospitals in the area."

(Market Overviews provide a detailed analysis of local healthcare markets, allowing healthcare businesses to plan local strategies.)

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