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Patient activity, service expansions, investments expand UH's economic impact

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University Hospitals’ economic impact to the regional economy grew 33% between 2016 and 2019, during which time the health system didn’t integrate any new facilities but rather got larger through service expansions and capital builds and investments.

UH contributes $10.3 billion to the regional economy and $4.4 billion of labor income to Ohio, according to the economic impact report the system conducts about every three years.

“We have a mission for creating health and wellness, but we in fact are a major player in the economic health and well-being of the economy,” said Heidi Gartland, chief government and community relations officer for UH. “We know the healthier an economy is, the healthier its population is as well.”

An increase in patients has been a major driver of the growth, as well as increased investments in research and academics, she said.

UH’s recent notable capital projects include the construction of the $26 million UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Ahuja Center for Women & Children, which opened in 2018 in Cleveland’s MidTown neighborhood, and a new $17 million ambulatory health center at UH Richland Health Center. In 2019, UH broke ground on a $27.5 million renovation and expansion project of surgical services at UH Parma Medical Center, as well as an $11.2 million renovation project at UH Elyria Medical Center. Additionally, a $236 million planned expansion of the UH Ahuja Medical Center campus includes a 216,000-square-foot hospital building and 78,000-square-foot sports medicine complex.

“For 155 years, University Hospitals has been guided by a strong commitment to civic and social responsibility, leveraging its role as an anchor institution to build physical and economic health for the community,” UH CEO Dr. Cliff Megerian said in a provided statement “Our goal is to be the most trusted health care partner. Because we know there is a direct correlation between population wealth and population health, this aim to be the most trusted includes driving strategic initiatives that create jobs and produce meaningful labor income. In turn, this fosters economic growth, which ultimately aids in keeping our Northeast Ohio population healthy.”

In 2019, UH directly employed 27,755 people. Adding in those employed by joint venture partners and its construction activities, the system’s permanent and construction jobs that year totaled 31,524. For every direct UH job, approximately 1.12 additional jobs are supported in Ohio, according to the report, authored by Silverlode Consulting.

It estimates that, in total, UH’s medical centers, health centers and physician offices generate nearly 67,000 direct and indirect jobs, supporting 45,000 households. UH-supported households spend about $3 billion purchasing goods and services in Ohio, while the health system purchased $664.1 million in goods and services from Ohio vendors in 2019, according to the report.

“While our real mission is to heal, to teach and to discover, we’ve become a very big economic nonprofit organization that does give back to the community,” Gartland said. “So when we prosper, we really reinvest that prosperity back into the community.”