DEACONESS HOSPITAL OF CLEVELAND was established in 1914 by the Evangelical Deaconess Society as a training institution for deaconesses (religious sisters) who provided nursing and administrative services for hospitals affiliated with the Evangelical Church (now the UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST). After purchasing the Johnson property in the OLD BROOKLYN neighborhood on Cleveland's West Side in 1919, the Evangelical Deaconess Society opened Deaconess Hospital with 22 beds and 6 bassinets at 4229 Pearl Road in 1923. Reverend Armin A. Kitterer served as hospital administrator for half a century, from 1925 until 1975, and worked diligently to bring the most highly qualified physicians to the hospital. The hospital's tuberculosis ward and facilities provided the main income during hard financial times. Additions and renovations occurred in 1927, 1948, 1953, 1957, 1961-62, 1972-73, and 1977. Deaconess operated medical offices in PARMA and BRECKSVILLE, the Westside Imaging & Oncology Center (in conjunction with Drs. Hill & Thomas Radiology Group, SOUTHWEST GENERAL HOSPITAL, and PARMA COMMUNITY GENERAL HOSPITAL), Hospital Home Health Services of Northeast Ohio, and the Deaconess Family House for senior citizen independent living. In 1991, Deaconess, a member of the UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS HEALTH SYSTEM since 1989, had 316 beds and 27 bassinets.
As the occupancy rate of the hospital declined in the late 1980s, reaching only about 60% in 1990, the board of trustees decided to invest in a suburban facility with a large group of different kinds of medical specialists to fill the empty beds at Deaconess. Their decision reflected an emerging nationwide trend among cash-strapped hospitals faced with diminishing reimbursements to build medical facilities closer to suburban patients and provide quality medical services in less-expensive outpatient settings. After purchasing land in BROOKLYN for $439,800 in late 1989, Deaconess constructed the Ridgepark Medical Center at 7575 Northcliff Avenue at the cost of more than $5 million in late 1992. The hospital filled the 70,000-square-foot four-story glass building with the latest high-tech medical hardware and launched Innova Medical Services to recruit physicians to establish their practices in the new building. However, Innova faltered almost immediately since it attracted a disproportionate number of highly-paid specialists, as opposed to family and general practitioners, and specialists depend on family and general practitioners for patient referrals. As Innova steadily drained the already strained financial resources of Deaconess, the board members decided to sell the struggling hospital. Primary Health Systems (PHS), a for-profit company based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, purchased Deaconess for nearly $8 million in late 1994, creating the first for-profit hospital in northeastern Ohio. However, the Ridgepark building and the doctors' group, Innova, remained with Deaconess Health Systems, which became the Deaconess Community Foundation in 1997. Soon after its acquisition of Deaconess, PHS laid off more than 130 employees of the hospital's workforce of about 1,000. Financial difficulties continued to plague the historic hospital under new management. Deaconess could not compete profitably with the much bigger and more powerful nonprofit hospitals in Cleveland especially when it faced diminishing reimbursements from public and private insurance providers. Hospital Health Services of Northeastern Ohio, a home health-care care unit based at Deaconess, closed in late 1998 and PHS phased out the hospital's renovated obstetrics unit a year later, terminating some 20 jobs. On March 17, 1999, PHS filed for bankruptcy protection and put Deaconess up for sale.
In October 2000, Nour Management Co., headed by Deaconess vascular surgeon Doctor George Saad, purchased Deaconess Hospital and the adjoining Medical Arts Building for $5 million. Following the acquisition, Deaconess maintained a staff of more than 500 full-time and part-time employees and had 287 beds. The new administration at Deaconess soon encountered the same intractable problems as its predecessors: slow-paying insurers, soaring malpractice insurance rates, and escalating drug and technology costs. After accumulating an outstanding debt of nearly $9 million, Nour Management filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2003. After transferring the remaining patients to other area hospitals and laying off 325 employees, Deaconess closed its doors on November 28, 2003. In April 2004, MetroHealth System acquired Deaconess Hospital out of bankruptcy court for $3.8 million. It proceeded to spend $20 million to convert part of the 110,000-square-feet hospital to accommodate the information technology and financial services of the MetroHealth Medical Center and house a new data center. In October 2007, MetroHealth opened the Senior Health and Wellness Center in the former Deaconess Hospital building at 4229 Pearl Road. Developed in cooperation with the BENJAMIN ROSE INSTITUTE, Concordia Care, and the Visiting Nurse Association's Hospice and Palliative Care Partners of Ohio, the center included outpatient clinics, 144 beds for long-term care, a hospice unit, wellness programs, adult day care, and other services designed to help older people lead healthy lives. In addition to a $15 million subsidy from Cuyahoga County, MetroHealth funded the $65 million project with public and private contributions, including a $1.25 million grant from the ELISABETH SEVERANCE PRENTISS FOUNDATION, a $500,000 grant from the Deaconess Community Foundation, a $150,000 grant from the HAROLD C. SCHOTT FOUNDATION, a $100,000 grant each from EATON CORPORATION and NATIONAL CITY BANK, and a $25,000 grant from the GEORGE W. CODRINGTON CHARITABLE FOUNDATION. In early 2008, Deaconess Property Holding Corporation, the real estate arm of the Deaconess Community Foundation, sold the former Ridgepark Medical Center in Brooklyn for $2 million to a group of local investors.
Hospitals Collection, Dittrick Museum of Medical History Archives.
Kitterer, Armin A. "Historical Summary 1914-1967 of Deaconess Hospital," unpub. ms., Deaconess Hospital of Cleveland.
See also MEDICINE, HOSPITALS & HEALTH PLANNING.