Mercy Health puts St. Joseph’s planned move on hold

Company cites ‘economic uncertainty’ of GM Lordstown

WARREN — Plans for a new $250 million hospital on property north of the Eastwood Mall appear to be in limbo.

Mercy Health has issued a statement to employees, stating the decision is on hold, in part, because of questions surrounding the future of the General Motors Lordstown plant.

“With this economic uncertainty, it has been decided that an indefinite hold be placed on the possibility of a new facility at Enterprise Park, including one in size and scope of a new hospital,” reads the release, jointly attributed to Dr. John Luellen, recently appointed CEO, and Don Kline, the outgoing chief executive officer.

The statement, released Friday to hospital staff, was obtained by the Tribune Chronicle.

“… As we are aware, the recent news of GM Lordstown has shaken our community, and as an organization, our thoughts are with those families directly working for General Motors and those working for GM suppliers.”

The possibility that Mercy Health would build the new five- to six-floor St. Joseph Warren Hospital was made public early this month. The property in question was recently bought by the Cafaro Company and earmarked for a complex called Enterprise Park.

According to the statement, Mercy Health officials stated it is the hospital’s commitment to keep employees informed as plans progressed. Luellen and Kline said Mercy Health remains “focused on caring for our patients and extending our healing to those who need us most. It is with much gratitude that we thank you for your continued support of our ministry and for helping us shape the future of health care delivery in the Mahoning Valley.”

GM announced in November its intentions to place the Lordstown plant, as well as four other North American facilities, on “unalloctaed” status as of March 2019. The company also stated it will no longer produce the Chevrolet Cruze, which has been assembled in Lordstown since 2010.

Meanwhile, the Cafaro Company is waiting word from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on whether or not it will be issued a permit for the Enterprise Park development. The much-debated building site has been publicly opposed by local environmental experts and Howland residents who want to protect the 16 acres of wetlands on which a portion of the complex would be built. Backers of the project cite the economic and educational opportunities a new complex would bring to the Valley.

In a previous release, Mercy Health said it started looking for sites for expansion several months ago, and Enterprise Park was deemed a potential location for a new facility. This facility, according to Mercy Health officials, could be used for primary care, urgent care or outpatient services.

Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Company, said he is not aware of any Mercy Health plans being placed on hold or changed because of GM Lordstown situation.

“We are still very early in the project timeline, so nothing has been formally decided. We are keeping an eye on the situation. We will take a good hard look at what happens with General Motors and the economy,” Bell said.

There are many factors involved with any project, Bell said, such as the local economy. He said the GM situation could change in a few months in a variety of ways, possibly for the better, and that is why waiting is the key factor.

It likely will be several months before any changes or final decisions are made on Enterprise Park, Bell said, adding there always are variations or adaptations that can be made to any plan, if needed.