Summa and Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital Resolve Long-Running Dispute

Feb 1, 2017

A long-running legal fight between Summa Health and Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital has been resolved.

Wadsworth-Rittman was operated by a community hospital district until Summa bought the property in 2008. The health system closed the inpatient care facility six years later, and that's when the lawsuit began.

The settlement comes less than two weeks before the case was headed to trial. It stipulates that Summa can operate the hospital for up to 15 more years and will provide X-Ray and outpatient surgery facilities, plus an ER. After the 15 years, the hospital would revert back to full ownership by the hospital district.

Attorney Jeff Witschey has been working on behalf of the district, and says the settlement had been discussed on-and-off since last fall with Thomas Malone, who resigned as head of Summa last week.

“We had a mediation and he participated in that mediation. So I think that he was actually part of the reason why it did settle.

“The litigation was very strenuously fought by both sides, but in a very professional manner. Their attorneys and our legal team always kept open lines of communication which, in the end, allowed us to forge a resolution to the matter that I believe both sides should be satisfied with.”

The Wadsworth hospital district will have 18 months, starting in April, to find another health system to implement inpatient care. If that happens, Summa will cede control of the hospital immediately, instead of waiting until 2032.

Here's the statement from Summa and Wadsworth-Rittman:

Summa Health and the Wadsworth-Rittman Area Joint Township Hospital District, Wayne and Medina County (District) are pleased to announce an out-of-court resolution that ends pending litigation regarding the Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Medical Center.

The agreement allows the parties to build upon their shared desire and commitment to provide care for the people of Wadsworth and surrounding communities. An overview of the agreement includes:

Summa will transfer the Wadsworth-Rittman campus land to the District and lease the land for $250,000/year for an initial term of five years with an additional $1,000,000 paid to the District at the beginning of the initial lease. Summa will have the option to renew the lease for five successive two-year terms for a total of 15 years. At the end or non-renewal of the lease, Summa will transfer ownership of the campus buildings to the District.

The District will have 18 months to seek an entity to operate the campus as an inpatient acute care hospital. In the event an inpatient operator is found, Summa will transfer ownership of the buildings to the District at such earlier time.

If a new inpatient operator is not secured, Summa Health will invest $3.75 million during the initial 5-year lease term for capital improvements, of which a minimum of $2.5 million will be for improvements and equipment at the Wadsworth-Rittman campus and up to $1.25 million of which will be for capital improvements and equipment either on the campus or elsewhere in the Wadsworth-Rittman service area.

For the remaining lease terms, Summa Health will invest a minimum of $1.5 million in the Wadsworth-Rittman service area during each 2-year renewal term, with a minimum of $1 million invested in the Wadsworth-Rittman campus during each term, for a total additional investment of up to $7.5 million over the 10 years of renewal periods.

For as long as Summa occupies the Wadsworth-Rittman campus, it agrees to provide the following services: emergency room/urgent care, outpatient surgery, primary care, specialty support in cardiology and general surgery, diagnostic imaging, and outpatient lab services. If no inpatient operator is found, Summa will provide a minimum of four observation beds at the facility.

“Today’s agreement highlights the shared desire by all parties to find a solution that ultimately benefits the people of Wadsworth and the surrounding communities,” said District Board Chairman Bruce Darlington. “By working together, we are able to look at both inpatient and outpatient options and to determine how to continue the services already being provided while also evaluating new opportunities that might exist to enhance those current offerings.”

“Our primary focus throughout this process has been finding an appropriate resolution that ensures the healthcare needs for the people of Wadsworth and the surrounding communities remain front and center in everything that we do,” said Summa Health Senior Vice President of Population Health, Dr. Mark Terpylak. “We look forward to continuing to meet the demonstrated need across the community for outpatient services, while working with the hospital district to look for opportunities to enhance the outstanding care already being provided.”

"We are pleased with the settlement. We are happy that the parties acted professionally throughout the litigation and were able to keep lines of communication open so the parties could reach resolution," said Jeff Witschey, of Witschey, Witschey & Firestine, the firm representing the District in the litigation.

Today, the campus offers approximately 30 outpatient services, including a freestanding emergency department, expanded primary care offices, orthopaedics, cardiology, cancer screenings, Center for Senior Health, endoscopy, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery, pulmonary/respiratory, digestive health and urology.