In 2017, recognizing the loss of Akron General’s independence and the acquisition of Akron’s FirstMerit Bank by Columbus’ Huntington Bancshares, Deveny said his direction from the board was that Summa would not be next.
Asked what had changed since that time, Deveny was quick to distinguish between local ownership and local control.
“Ownership’s one thing,” he said. “But then (it’s) whether you have rights, or you have governance, or you have decision-making authority.”
Summa will maintain its local 16-member board, with five seats occupied by Beaumont. Summa will have three seats on Beaumont’s board.
Over the years, as the city lost local ownership of its newspaper, its banks and its hospitals, resignation took hold, said David Lieberth, former deputy mayor of Akron, who sat on the Summa board for nearly two decades, leaving in 2017. Given that reality, he said, Summa’s arrangement with Beaumont Health is essentially the best possible outcome: Summa will maintain its name and local control and anticipates no job loss and even expanded services.
“It is the way of the world,” said Lieberth, who is currently chairman of the community engagement committee of Summa’s board. “And to stand back and sort of hold on to the reins and say we’re not going to change is just not consistent with the best practice today if you want to offer a good service or product, whatever it is.”
Before Summa, Akron General forged this path back in 2015, when, after a year as a minority investor, Cleveland Clinic announced it would take full ownership of Akron General Health System.
Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber, said there were initial worries that Akron General would disappear from the community, but the past few years have shown the opposite to be true.
“My sense is while folks were concerned about the loss of Akron General, I think the Clinic has done a pretty good job of keeping leadership active in the community, keeping the community presence out there and really bringing additional clinical services and opportunities to the region,” Millard said.
Since the acquisition, the Clinic has invested more than $160 million into the Akron campus, including a new emergency department, expansion of services and specialties, an extensive outpatient addition to the Lodi Community Hospital campus, integration of their electronic medical records systems and more.
While most of the regional hospitals in the Clinic’s network have advisory boards, Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Union Hospital (which the Clinic acquired in 2018) each have separate governing boards with fiduciary responsibility, helping to maintain local control.
“We are locally controlled and managed and owned,” said Dr. Brian Harte, president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General. “Cleveland Clinic is a Northeast Ohio organization.”
Harte added he doesn’t see Summa’s move with Beaumont changing the competitive or collaborative landscape in Akron.
Akron Children’s Hospital and its network remain independent.
Both Summit County executive Ilene Shapiro and Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan issued statements expressing their support for the Summa/Beaumont partnership, but were unavailable for interviews.