Panel discusses “New Direcion After Northside”

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The future of health care in Youngstown will focus more on prevention and education aimed at keeping people healthy and out of the hospital.

That is the consensus of a panel convened by the City Club of the Mahoning Valley for a forum Tuesday night at Stambaugh Auditorium to discuss “New Direction after Northside: The Future of Healthcare in Youngstown.”

The panelists, all of whom had personal connections to Northside Regional Medical Center, were pediatrician Dr. Ronald Dwinnells, chief executive officer of One Health Ohio; Leigh Greene, director of minority health in Youngstown; and Patricia Sweeney, Mahoning County District Board of Health commissioner.

Mercy Health declined an invitation to participate in the panel discussion, said Lynn Bilal, club project director.

The event was moderated by Sarah Taylor, broadcast and digital editor of WKSU, who set the scene.

Taylor said more than 5,200 hospitals in the country, such as Northside, are considered community hospitals ... that are vital to the local economies of their respective communities and are the first line of defense when they are faced with health threats and emergencies such as the current opioid crisis.

That is why Northside Regional Medical Center’s closing in September was such a shock to Youngstown, she said.

While Northside’s closing, which cost about 400 people their jobs, stunned public officials, the panelists said they could see it coming.

“It was one more hit for Youngstown and eliminated choices for health care, said Greene.

Nevertheless, she noted, the future of health care in the area looks good because so many organizations and initiatives are working on prevention and education.

Sweeney, whose perspective is public health, said it is not just about health care facilities.

“We need to help people before they get sick by providing access to preventative health care and making sure people have safe and stable places to live, and transportation and healthy food,” she said.

“The future of health care in the Mahoning Valley is very positive, despite the loss of Northside,” said Dwinnells.

“A considerable number of major health resources remain, including his One Health Ohio, the mission of which is provide a medical safety net for people who are under-insured or have no insurance,” he said.

“We need to make it possible for people to engage in healthy eating and active lifestyles and eliminate inequities in health care outcomes,” said Sweeney.

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