Witzenburg: An Open Letter to Fox Hospital

Letter from Christopher Witzenburg

An Open Letter to Fox Hospital

I have been going to a fitness center of one kind or another for 35 years; I have been a member of FoxCare Fitness for over 23 years. I have made long-term friends there, met personal goals, milestones and countless challenges in my life, and have been supported by having the fitness center at my disposal. This week, there have been some long faces and serious discussions in regard to the closing of the center in June.

FoxCare Fitness is unique to Oneonta, serving the most mature fitness population of any other gym in the area. Many of the daily attendees started there from rehab and have not left because they have found it adds to the quality of their lives. I think we all understand that the gym costs money to run but, given the facility already exists, and has had the same equipment for many, many years, it is hard to imagine how cutting the fitness center would be a significant savings for the network.

I was impressed when the gym opened, and Fox Hospital had the foresight to provide injury and illness prevention. But this gym is more—not only is there a pipeline for people emerging from rehabilitation to a lifestyle that includes exercise as prevention, but it has served to connect so many in the community. This hospital-supported gym has supported many of us through hard times and provided us with an outlet and important networks of friends.

Personally, there have been times when I didn’t show up for a week and the staff took the time to check in on me to make sure I was okay. There have been some rough patches for all of us, but we show up there, put a smile on and get it done. We don’t quit when things are hard, we stick it out.

We’re resilient and have maintained this through the years. I can’t speculate how much of a positive impact the facility has had on people’s lives over the years, but I know there are some members in their 90s, several in their 80s and I can only guess the majority of members are from 40-70. These are people that should be encouraged and supported to maintain fitness as a matter of prevention to avoid having a sedentary lifestyle. Yet, here we are, concerned about the members that are seniors avoiding the understandably stressful search for a suitable place to maintain their lifestyle.

From what I understand, there are about 750 members, which is low for the facility. But overflow will tax the surrounding gyms, some of which are at capacity or close, leaving people stranded. We don’t have Clark Gym, we have Fox Fitness—there are many of us in the southern end of Otsego County that have come to rely on Fox. The members aren’t just from Oneonta.

I find it impossible to believe that this was anything more than a financial decision by the network accountants looking at a red line. In the 23 years I have been a member, I don’t recall a visit from the network administration to see what kind of place it is. It is, in my opinion, a very near-sighted strategy financially. I’ve seen firsthand people change their lives—establishing healthy routines, strengthening their bodies, recovering from injury and ailment, and maybe most importantly making strong social connections, sharing their lives with each other and caring. I cannot think of a more benevolent way to support a community than by providing prevention and support opposed to treatment plans and medication.

If Fox is serious about providing the best medical care that they can, prevention should be at the top of the list. To quote your statement in the paper: “Bassett is focusing its energy and resources on what we do best—providing excellent healthcare to our patients. Unfortunately, this means we have made the difficult decision to cease operations at FoxCare Fitness so we are able to re-deploy our resources toward more direct patient care.”

With the closure of FoxCare Fitness, you can be assured you’ll have more patient care. I implore you to look more closely at who this gym actually serves; spend some time talking to your members that are working hard to avoid being your “patients.” If we’re after long-term resiliency, a fitness center with such high numbers of middle-aged people and senior citizens is a good place to start. I get it, post-COVID outlooks for hospitals are bleak, but I don’t think this is the place to pull the purse strings. It may be more costly to close it than the network was anticipating.
As a citizen of this area, I genuinely hope that the network can reconsider or at least investigate their approach with a focus on what they may be saving despite the monetary losses.

Christopher Witzenburg

3 thoughts on “Witzenburg: An Open Letter to Fox Hospital

  1. Greg Fulkerson

    I agree 100 percent. I would be willing to pay more each month to keep it solvent, if that were presented as an option ahead of closure. Why were members not first approached about the prospect of closing? A general meeting would be a good idea.

  2. Lisetta Coffin

    “Bassett’s mission is improving the health of our patients and the well-being of our communities.”

    You may recognize this as the first sentence in Bassett Healthcares Mission Statement… and you’d be correct.

    Closing FoxCare Fitness will have a direct negative impact on the mental and physical health of its members. This would be in contradiction to the mission of Bassett Healhcare.
    For people who need an accessible facility there is no other option in Otsego County ( parking and stairs at the Y; Clark gym is too far) not to mention the warm water therapy pool.
    Was there any due diligence prior to the abrupt decision? As a member I’ve seen no collaboration or effort to look at a marketing analysis/survey needs. No financial analysis to see what is needed to keep the facility open.
    This is a welcoming facility for all ages, all fitness levels and all abilities. The staff is professional, dedicated AND THEY HELP their MEMBERS achieve wellness.
    I simply can’t get my arms around Bassetts Mission statement and this decision.
    It WILl have a negative impact on the mental and physical health of not just the members but their families.

  3. Lisetta Coffin

    “Bassett’s mission is improving the health of our patients and the well-being of its communities.”

    If you recognize this as the first sentence in Bassett Healthcares Mission Statement….. you’d be correct.

    Organizations care a lot about their mission statement …. Especially the first sentence.
    So, I’m trying to wrap my arms around how this beautiful statement collides with the FoxCare Fitness closure announcement.
    FoxCare Fitness is the ONLY accessible facility for folks with mobility challenges ( parking and stairs are a problem at the YMCA and Clark Gym is too far for these folks to drive) there is also the only warm water therapy pool in the area. These members have no other option so they will simply stop to the detriment of their mental and physical fitness. Think this is hyperbole or exaggeration? It’s not.
    The staff at FoxCare Fitness is dedicated, professional and they Help the members reach their individual fitness goals. The facility is welcoming to all ages, fitness levels and is clean and secure.
    What due diligence occurred to determine this was the only option? I’d venture a guess that there was very little to none. How about a professional marketing survey/ financial analysis to determine the needs and options?
    This is a community of people whose daily lives are enriched and enhanced by exercise and the connections they make with other like minded folks.
    It’s a gem.
    So, my advice is to do the work necessary to find a way to stop the closure of the membership part of the facility…. Especially since all the rehab will continue there. Otherwise, Bassett Healthcare will need to take a hard look at changing their Mission Statement to reflect their execution.
    Lisetta Coffin
    Maryland, NY

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