MOUNT GILEAD — The Morrow County Commissioners sent an open letter Wednesday, March 11 to the Morrow County Hospital Board and OhioHealth.
A news release states: The letter condemns a recent threat made by an attorney for OhioHealth saying that OhioHealth would order its physicians not to refer patients to the Morrow County Hospital if the Morrow County Commissioners won their pending lawsuit.
“OhioHealth is paid to manage our taxpayer-owned hospital, but it’s owned by Morrow County taxpayers, not OhioHealth,” Morrow County Commissioner Tom Whiston said. “I was absolutely shocked when OhioHealth’s attorney threatened to prohibit their doctors from making any referrals to our hospital in order to force the hospital to shut down.”
The letter outlines a phone call from OhioHealth’s attorney to the Morrow County Commissioner’s attorney. On the call, OhioHealth’s attorney said that if the Commissioners were to prevail in their lawsuit, OhioHealth would order its doctors to stop sending patients to the hospital and cause the hospital to close. When asked to clarify the threat in a follow-up email, OhioHealth’s attorney confirmed the threat, the commissioners contend.
Cheryl Herbert, Senior Vice President, Regional Operations, OhioHealth, issued a response to the commissioners’ release later that day.
“In our efforts to open a productive dialogue around the issues being played out in court, our attorney reached out to the commissioner’s attorney. Our goal was to provide a bridge to resolution that could save the citizens of Morrow County from unnecessary litigation.
“Rather than accept that olive branch, the commissioners have, regrettably, mischaracterized and sensationalized that conversation. OhioHealth has never threatened to cut off referrals to the hospital. We do not have the authority to close the hospital, nor have we ever advocated or even suggested that the hospital should be closed,” Herbert said.
“OhioHealth is paid to manage the Morrow County Hospital for local families; they’re not paid to use our hospital as their personal piggybank and transfer patients to their Columbus hospitals when they think it’ll make their hospital money,” Whiston continued. “Morrow County families deserve local healthcare that’s delivered here, and the Commissioners are committed to a competitive process that delivers the best results for Morrow County.”
OhioHealth remains committed to an open dialogue about the best way to serve the citizens of Morrow County, Herbert said.
The Morrow County Hospital is one of the few county-owned hospitals remaining in Ohio. Through a property tax levy, the hospital has received more than $30 million in taxpayer money in just the last 20 years. The hospital is responsible for more than $100 million in economic activity in Morrow County and provides some of the highest-paying jobs in the county.
The full letter is attached here.