Commissioners discuss future of War Memorial Hospital

March 23, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Another discussion concerning War Memorial Hospital is set for Friday at 3 p.m. at the Morgan County Commission office.

Members of the Morgan County Commission discussed the future of the Berkeley Springs hospital with officials from WVU Hospitals-East during the last commission meeting, but no proposals have been initiated by WVU Hospitals-East, said Teresa McCabe, vice president of marketing and development for the group.

Commissioner Bob Ford said the commissioners initiated the March 10 meeting.

WVU Hospitals-East is a network of hospitals linked to the Eastern Panhandle. Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., and City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., are part of WVU Hospitals-East, which is an extension of West Virginia University and Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.

Commission president Glen Stotler requested a private meeting to discuss "particular contractual arrangements," and part of the meeting was held in executive session.


Ford said after the meeting that WVU Hospitals-East officials and the commissioners discussed three options:

  • The first option would include no management agreement offer by WVU Hospitals-East like the county's current agreement with Valley Health Care in Winchester, Va., he said.

    The county owns the hospital and Valley Health is under contract to manage it, he said.

  • The second option would be WVU Hospitals-East owning War Memorial Hospital, and then leasing it to the county.

    The Morgan County Commission would no longer control the hospital, but commission members would be on the hospital's board of directors, Ford said.

  • The third option called for WVU Hospitals-East building a new hospital, taking over its operation and buying the current hospital, he said.

In one to two years, a new hospital would be constructed, he said, and WVU Hospitals-East said it would use that time to study what hospital services are needed.

Ford said the third option would require WVU Hospitals-East to operate the hospital for 25 to 30 years.

The option "gives us input on the services," Ford said, such as adding maternity services to the hospital.

"People will come to the hospital if the services are available," he said.

He said WVU Hospitals-East "had no problem" with adding more doctors, like "third- and-fourth-year medical students."

Ford said the county is not risking health care, and it gets the county "off the hook" because there would be no funding requirements. "There is no risk at all here," he said.

Ford said commissions in neighboring areas do not control the hospitals.

"Why is it so important that we control it, when we have the weakest hospital out of all?" he asked.

If they choose to go with WVU Hospitals-East, Ford said it has advantages.

"It is mandated for 25 to 30 years, we get a new road, and we could sell the hospital and use the funds to build a new community center," he said.

In January, Ford said that Gov. Joe Manchin would commit about $40 million to build the first phase of the proposed bypass on U.S. 522.

In return for the bypass commitment, Manchin would require the county to enter into talks with WVU Hospitals-East and come to an agreement that would bring Morgan County into the WVU Eastern Medical Group, Ford said.

Ford said the deal is still on the table.

McCabe said Wednesday that WVU Hospitals-East officials have not received a request by the commission to attend Friday's meeting.

"We are willing to work with any community in the region to advance the mission in improving health-care quality and access to health-care services in the West Virginia Eastern Panhandle," McCabe said.

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