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Ranson, W.Va. hospital officials consider new facility

June 11, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

In an attempt to meet the future medical needs of Jefferson County, officials at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson are considering building a new hospital at a cost of between $40 million and $60 million, the hospital's chief operating officer said Monday.

John Sherwood said that as an alternative, the existing hospital could be renovated, but that likely would cost as much as new construction.

The current 60-bed hospital at 300 S. Preston St. has space limitations and parts of its layout are not conducive to efficient operations, Sherwood said.

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A master facilities plan being prepared by hospital administrators will determine whether the existing hospital should be renovated or a new facility built, Sherwood said.

He would not speculate on what the recommendation would be.

The master facilities plan is expected to be completed in about two months, Sherwood said.

Sherwood talked about the possibility of building a new hospital during a meeting Monday morning at the hospital with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Hospital officials were looking to Capito for help in dealing with financial problems facing the hospital.

Budget cuts through Medicare and Medicaid have hurt hospitals, and Jefferson Memorial is losing about 28 percent in revenue by providing outpatient services to Medicare patients, Sherwood said.

Meeting the future medical needs of Jefferson County is important to hospital officials, especially in light of the "Huntfields and those other developments coming in," said Jeff Lilley, Jefferson Memorial's chief financial officer.

Huntfield is a 3,300-home development to be built about a mile south of Charles Town.

"It's critically important that we address that now," Lilley said.

Sherwood told Capito that it is difficult for small hospitals like Jefferson Memorial to meet day-to-day operational costs and have enough money left over for the improvements they need to make.

Jefferson Memorial last year made $1.3 million, which has been spent for improvements to the hospital and new programs, Sherwood said. The hospital is operating in the black this year, he said.

If the hospital would decide to build a new facility, officials probably would have to look to a combination of capital revenue sources such as philanthropic organizations and borrowing, said Sherwood.

Hospital officials talked about the possibility of federal grants to build a new hospital, but Sherwood doubted such money would be available.

Don Mickey, chairman of the hospital's board of directors, said he fears that the war on terrorism has "sapped up any loose money that's around."

If the hospital were to stay at its current location, hospital officials could renovate the building. To give the hospital expansion room, a former nursing home next door that used to be operated by the hospital could be torn down, said Sherwood.

Capito brought hospital administrators up to date on bills in Congress that could affect rural hospitals such as Jefferson Memorial.

The House of Representatives might consider a bill this week that includes $350 billion to ease the price of drug prescriptions for the elderly, said Capito. An earlier version of the bill called for a $17 billion cut to rural hospitals, said Capito.

"I went right to the (House) speaker. I said this is ridiculous. That got thrown out pretty quickly," Capito said.

Now the bill calls for a $9 billion increase to rural hospitals, Capito said.

That's the type of action that needs to continue in Washington to help hospitals like Jefferson Memorial, Sherwood said.

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