By Michele Murphy
They have permanently changed the landscape along Nagel Road in Avon with sleek, shining buildings that include a health center, hospital and rehabilitation facility. In reality, the Cleveland Clinic has done so much more than that.
The huge nonprofit is committed to taking care of the hearts – and other body parts – of the thousands of humans who cross their thresholds at the Avon facilities. However, their ultimate goal, according to Rebecca Starck, MD, president of Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital, is to be at the heart of the community they serve.
Many think of the clinic for its array of health services. In addition to the Nagel Road facilities, the clinic has medical offices on Chester Road where Starck maintains her own practice in obstetrics and gynecology. During 2016, 450,000 patients passed through the doors at their Jacobs Health Center alone, according to Starck.
Perhaps lesser known is that the clinic employs more than 1,000 people from doctors and physicians’ assistants to nurses and lab technicians, IT specialists, security, food services and nutritionists, pharmacists, facilities management and maintenance and an array of clinical specialists. Their payroll taxes contribute significantly to Avon’s financial bottom line.
Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen and Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka agree the clinic has contributed substantially to the overall health, including economic, of their respective cities. Zilka says a number of clinic employees have purchased homes in Avon Lake. Jensen agrees and also can claim the additional positive benefit of the shopping they do in Avon, given its numerous retail options.
Starck’s best guesstimate is as many as 70 percent of the staff live nearby. Putting on her “mom” hat, Starck adds she believes when considering a community to live in, mothers (and fathers) will look at the school system and availability of health care.
Cleveland Clinic Avon is also engaged in many outreach efforts to place it squarely in the middle of the Lorain County communities it serves. Starck has worked to ensure the clinic has representation on each task force within the Lorain County Health District. This means they have a voice in public health issues like obesity, infant mortality, or drugs and alcohol.
It has also created a unique partnership with another of Avon’s biggest employers, Shurtech. The clinic provides a nurse practitioner on-site at Shurtech so employees – and their families – have incredibly easy-to-access primary care services.
Starck says the clinic would like to expand initiatives like this one with other area businesses. She also created a Community Advisory Council comprised of public officials, business owners, consumer groups and providers to explore collaborations and partnership opportunities in an effort to enhance the collective health of the community.
Starck did not hesitate when asked about the future. She says the substantial presence of the Cleveland Clinic, particularly the opening last fall of its 126-bed hospital, is an indicator of the community’s long-term health. “It conveys ‘We’re here to stay,’” she declares, adding she would love to see additional specialty practices and services added at Avon.
What seems certain is, as the clinic continues to develop deep roots in Avon and Lorain County, additional programs and staff will contribute to the economic wellness of the area as well.
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