The Sisters of Charity Health System and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center announced a new vision on Sept. 14 for the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus in downtown Cleveland. This new ministry of the SCHS will transform the sisters’ property on East 22nd Street, including St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, into a hub that promotes holistic health and wellness through health care and services that address the social determinants of health.
The transition is anticipated to be completed on Nov. 15, when SVCMC no longer will provide inpatient care.
This vision extends the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine’s 171-year legacy of healing ministry to serve unmet needs in the community.
“The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine have always partnered with many to serve Cleveland through a devotion to healing – spiritually, physically, socially and emotionally. The vision for the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus advances our mission to provide a holistic and integrated model of high-quality care,” said Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA congregational leader. “I am proud that the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus will build on the legacy of our treasured caregivers and medical staff, and also Sister Ignatia Gavin, CSA – founder of Rosary Hall – by establishing new community-based health services.”
The plan for the health campus is twofold.
First, the sisters said they remain committed to meeting the unmet needs of the community, a challenge accepted when they became the city’s first home health nurses after arriving in Cleveland in 1851. That commitment grew when the established St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in 1865 in downtown Cleveland. Over the years, they adapted and brought innovations to health care, including Sister Gavin’s work to found the first department in a hospital to care for those suffering from alcohol dependence
Second, the recent shifts in health care created a challenging environment for SVCMC to continue as a traditional acute care hospital. The rise in demand for outpatient care, declining inpatient volume and the growth of telehealth – all of which were accelerated by the COVID 19 pandemic – caused additional financial pressure on the hospital.
“Since 1865, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center has weathered challenges, including the pandemic through which our caregivers served our patients and community with courage and grace. This deep commitment to serving our community through Catholic health care will continue as we transition to high-quality ambulatory care,” said Janice G. Murphy, SCHS president and CEO. “This transition puts the hospital on a financially sustainable path forward despite the rapid, significant and ongoing changes in health care today.”
The plan calls for the following ambulatory care at SVCMC: outpatient mental health services, high-quality provision of addiction medicine services through Rosary Hall, primary care, internal medicine and specialty clinics and urgent care.
About 100 caregivers will remain. Medical residents are invited to move to University Hospitals, which will conduct job fairs targeting SVCMC clinical and non-clinical staff.
“The story of St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is one of transformation, led by the Sisters of Charity, whose passion for serving the Central neighborhood and all of Cleveland, is unmatched. Their history of evolving to meet the needs of the time is extraordinary and continues today,” said Dr. Adnan Tahir, SVCMC president and CEO. “This transformation is possible because of the dedication of our caregivers, who have stayed with us through challenging times. I have tremendous gratitude for each and every member of our staff.”
A variety of ambulatory health services will be part of the new St. Vincent Charity Health Campus, including behavioral health, youth and families, food and nutrition, workforce development, physical activity, transportation, housing, learning and education and arts and culture.
These program areas and the vision for the health campus were co-created by the Sisters of Charity, residents of Cleveland’s Central neighborhood and Cleveland area institutions following a comprehensive, yearlong process, that began in June 2021. Internationally recognized MASS Design Group led, in partnership with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, the research effort and facilitated community dialogue to understand directly from the community what social and economic needs the health campus should address.
"MASS Design Group is noted globally for leading design innovations in health care facilities with an emphasis on healing and justice. The goal in developing the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus is to help remove barriers to health and wellbeing for people living in our community, and to create opportunities to support this important and historic part of Cleveland,” said Robyn Gordon, board chair of the new St. Vincent Charity Health Campus.
Residents and representatives of health and social service organizations, primary care providers, youth development organizations, food security organizations and champions, community gardeners, workforce development organizations, higher education leaders, foundation leaders, real estate developers, public libraries, artists, cultivators and public officials all provided input to help shape the vision for the health campus through more than 30 focus groups, 25 partner meetings, 15 guided tours and five special events.
"We listened to the lived experiences of neighbors and learned that in order to lead healthier lives, our community deserves spaces that nourish mind, body and spirit," said Christopher Kroner, MASS Design Group lead principal. "For St. Vincent Charity Health Campus to be truly unifying, each space needs to establish an experience of radical welcome."
After the community voice and planning phase, the SCHS established the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus as a new nonprofit entity among its Catholic ministries. Susanna H. Krey was named president and CEO of the new nonprofit, which will lead efforts to bring new services, programs and partners in the community-identified categories to the health campus, alongside ambulatory care services provided by SVCMC.
"We are pleased to launch St. Vincent Charity Health Campus as a whole-person approach for the Cleveland community and especially Central neighborhood, which is home to five – now six – Sisters of Charity ministries," Krey said. “With the ambulatory care services of St. Vincent and the new services and partners we will bring to the health campus, we are proud to transform the healing ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine once again.”
As a core foundation of its services, the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus is developing its initial pilot programs to focus on physical health through ambulatory care, youth and families, food and nutrition and behavioral health crisis and recovery.
The health campus will seek to enhance access and address the symptoms of trauma by creating a new coordinated response to crises in the community and by enhancing access to services that support long-term recovery. Specifically, the mental health and addiction crisis continuum of care will be expanded by partnering with community entities and developing a crisis and recovery services pilot. It will work to address all age ranges and acuity levels, especially lower acuity needs, which local and regional research shows are not being met.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland funded the community engagement process and provided executive leadership for the initiative. Krey expressed gratitude to the many residents, Promise Ambassadors and partners who are collaborating with the Sisters of Charity to inform, shape and support the co-creation of the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus. Krey said updates on pilot projects, funding and how the health campus will continue to be developed will continue to be shared with the community.