'Hopefully, it's not just vegetating.' Frustration builds about former Affinity hospital

·3 min read
The former Affinity Medical Center building in northeast Massillon remains unoccupied after slightly more than a year after MediShield Solutions purchased the site. Some area residents are frustrated by the lack of action.
The former Affinity Medical Center building in northeast Massillon remains unoccupied after slightly more than a year after MediShield Solutions purchased the site. Some area residents are frustrated by the lack of action.

MASSILLON – Todd Kasunick has been working at Kraus' Pizza on Amherst Road NW for about 15 years and recalls a once vibrant hospital across the street.

He looks back at the 2014 expansion at Affinity Medical Center, which included a revamped emergency room as well as an expansion of health services, as a high point for the hospital.

Today, however, the building at 845 Eighth St. NE remains an unoccupied, empty shell — a state that's been consistent for most of the past four years.

The community had high hopes that the vacant structure would be reborn with new services, such as surgical procedures, after Daniel Beers and Brandon Fabris — operators of MediShield Solutions — bought the building. They provided the winning bid of $467,500 in November 2020 for the site, which remains visibly dormant, other than property maintenance such as lawncare and snow removal.

The two officially received the keys to the building from the city of Massillon in January 2021. Yet a year later, any upgrades to the facility have been scarce or nonexistent.

"I know (many) small hospitals are catabolizing, but it's a shame," said Kasunick, whose two children were born at Affinity. "The people who bought it aren't doing anything with it."

Attempts to reach Beers and Fabris last week were unsuccessful.

Business partners Daniel Beers (left) and Brandon Fabris discuss their acquisition of the former Affinity Medical Center in Massillon after posting the wining bid via auction in November 2020.
Business partners Daniel Beers (left) and Brandon Fabris discuss their acquisition of the former Affinity Medical Center in Massillon after posting the wining bid via auction in November 2020.

Others frustrated by lack of building activity

Massillon Councilman Jim Thieret, R-Ward 2, said he drives by the former Affinity building about every weekday to work.

Last fall, Thieret said he'd received multiple calls from constituents about the status of the structure, wondering if any activity was ongoing or coming soon.

Massillon City Councilman Jim Thieret
Massillon City Councilman Jim Thieret

"I've heard they're not doing anything with it," Thieret said, regarding the MediShield Solutions group. "Hopefully, it's not just vegetating."

The city is not permitted to inspect the inside of the building, due to it being privately owned and unoccupied, Thieret explained.

More: Massillon's Affinity hospital auction set for Nov. 18

More: Massillon looks to auction Affinity, parking lot

"It's not in operation, so we (the city) can't go in to inspect it," he said.

Longtime city resident Becky Nelson, an employee of Swanke Dry Cleaners on State Street NE, which faces the south side of Affinity, said she last saw trucks and men working outside as recently as last fall.

A view from the southern section of the former Affinity Medical Center in Massillon. An employee from nearby Swanke Dry Cleaners said last fall was the most recent time she has seen activity at the building.
A view from the southern section of the former Affinity Medical Center in Massillon. An employee from nearby Swanke Dry Cleaners said last fall was the most recent time she has seen activity at the building.

"I didn't see anything that's changed (outside) in the days they were there," Nelson added.

All three of Nelson's children were born at Affinity, and she said her husband died there.

More: Massillon CIC approves Affinity donations to local organizations

"I miss the hospital," Nelson continued. "It's no concern to me that it's empty, but I hate to see it go to waste.

"If it stays empty long enough, no one will ever move in."

Affinity building dormant since February 2018 closure

The main Affinity building — totaling four floors and nearly 350,000 square feet — rests on an 11.6-acre property. A two-story professional building, 830 Amherst Road NE, was part of the 2020 auction, as well as a parking lot that sits across the road from the hospital on Eighth Street NE.

The building has not been used to treat patients since its closure in February 2018. The city took over the former hospital and related properties from Quorum Health in mid-2018 for $1, with the hope of finding a new, full-time service operator.

David Maley, Massillon's economic development director, said the city has had little or no contact with MediShield Solutions over the last year. He said the city would be open to assisting the owners in seeking occupants for the building.

Reach Steven at steven.grazier@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @sgrazierINDE

This article originally appeared on The Independent: Former Affinity Medical Center Massillon still empty year after sale