Correction appended: The medical facility was referred to as a hospital in a previous version of this article. The facility does not meet the criteria of a hospital because it does not offer inpatient services. The current copy replaced the term hospital with medical facility.
Athens is to welcome a new medical facility along Columbus Road in 2024.
The medical facility, being built by Memorial Health System, will create nearly 160 new jobs and an average salary of $130,000 across all of the medical facility’s employees, which will contribute to the city's general revenue through income taxes, Mayor Steve Patterson said.
The current income tax rate within the City of Athens is 1.95%, which was put into effect Jan. 1.
“Here in the city of Athens, we are almost entirely funded by income tax,“ City Council President Sam Crowl said. “So the more jobs we have in the city, and the more higher paying jobs, the more income tax the city will receive."
Keeley Stockwell, an OhioHealth spokesperson, said the current average salary of hospital workers within OhioHealth's O'Bleness Hospital varies greatly depending on the position.
While the salary averages are different, Patterson said he predicts O'Bleness, located at 55 Hospital Drive, will receive about the same number of patients because where a patient receives care for emergencies will be based on proximity.
“If it's a true emergency, it’s wherever EMS is going to take you or wherever the person who's getting into the emergency room is going to take you,” Patterson said.
He said he predicts the majority of patients the new facility will receive will be from traffic off of US 33, state Route 13 and other smaller villages such as Glouster, Trimble and Jacksonville.
“As a healthcare leader in our community, OhioHealth is aware that community members have choices for where they seek care for themselves and their families,” Stockwell wrote in an email. “We are committed to continuing to provide a wide array of high-quality healthcare services close to home as we have for over 100 years.”
Scott Cantley, the CEO of Memorial Health Systems, visited Patterson and Service-Safety Director Andy Stone to discuss the possibility of the new facility in Athens in November 2021.
Following this meeting, Cantley's team of architects began construction in Pennsylvania by building modules with all the fixtures needed for each room, which were all shipped to Athens County.
“They started bringing these modules in on flatbeds, and like Legos, just started putting them all together,“ Patterson said. "That process took maybe three months to get all the modules placed and then started going up floor by floor. All the components have already been put together on Columbus Road.”
The facility is projected to be finished in April and will be four stories high. Patterson said they are working on pouring concrete to create an accommodating parking deck that is attached via a sky bridge.
Patterson said he is hoping to make Athens a health hub in Southeastern Ohio and to be able to treat certain conditions in Athens so residents don’t have to go to Columbus to receive medical care.
“I would like to see O'Bleness or somebody really make a concerted effort to increase our neonatal and pediatrics services,” Patterson said. “There are neonatal and pediatric services here, but, again, when there’s certain types of health conditions can't be treated here, they end up being sent on up to Nationwide Children's Hospital or to Columbus somewhere.”
Although Crowl said he is excited about the opening of the emergency department, he has expressed concern with the increase of health care services and providers the city can support in such a small area.
“I just have to assume that the Memorial Health staff … know that it's going to be productive, and they're going to be able to keep jobs, and there'll be plenty of patients,” Crowl said.
Even with this concern, Crowl said he is excited about the development happening along Columbus Road and would like to see more development to ensure a seamless entryway into the city.
“The more that these businesses are coming into that area … I think the more chances we have to really incorporate that as part of our city make it a nice thoroughfare and nice entryway to the city,” Crowl said.