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Land purchase in the works for new hospital

February 20, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A new War Memorial Hospital will be built off Fairview Drive nearly 1 1/2 miles from the current hospital.

The 80.5-acre site, at a cost of $1,458,600, is near the Fairview subdivision north of Berkeley Springs, said Neil McLaughlin, War Memorial's vice president of operations.

The land costs a little more than $18,000 an acre, and the purchase closing date is Feb. 26, he said. He said about two-thirds of the property is usable land.

The property is owned by Brian and Amy Christaldi, McLaughlin said.

Valley Health Systems of Winchester, Va., which manages War Memorial Hospital, will provide the land-purchase loan, he said.

War Memorial Hospital is a county-owned facility, said Commissioner Tommy Swaim, who has been a hospital board member for the past six years.

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"We own the facility, but the hospital generates its own keep," Swaim said. "It is county-owned to protect the hospital. This belongs to the people," he said.

The Morgan County Commission approved the land purchase last month.

Built in phases

The hospital and nursing home facility will be built during the first phase. McLaughlin said he hopes to break ground for the facility in 2008 and have it open in 12 to 18 months, "if it goes just as planned."

The estimated cost for the 25-bed critical access hospital and the 16-bed nursing home, and "creating the campus," McLaughlin said, is between $15 and $30 million, depending on the builder.

He said the hospital is working with three building companies and hopes to make a decision within three months.

The medical office building is planned for the Phase Two, and an independent living facility is planned for Phase Three, he said.

He said people can keep track of the hospital's progress on the Web at www.warmemorialhospital.com.

He said the hospital must complete three "very important steps." The first step is the closing on the land; the second is to choose a builder and the third is to design the site.

The hospital must obtain a certificate of need from the West Virginia Health Care Authority to receive permission to build, he said.

It also had to receive permission when the hospital purchased Dr. Joseph Hashem's practice last June.

The hospital employs Hashem, Dr. Jules Levey, a surgeon, and Dr. Cameron Duffy from Hancock, he said.

McLaughlin said the hospital had not employed physicians in a long time, so "it's a new idea here." The physicians can leave the business side to the hospital and can concentrate on providing care to their patients, he said.

The increased revenue created by employing physicians and purchasing their practices has stabilized the revenue streams for the hospital facility, he said.

Future bypass near

McLaughlin said the proposed bypass route around Berkeley Springs touches the southwest corner of the property.

He said the $500,000 in federal funding that was secured by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in 2005, was earmarked for the new hospital infrastructure improvements and will be used for site improvements.

McLaughlin said he has been looking for property for the new hospital for about four years, and the property owned by U.S. Silica Co. on U.S. 522 north of town that was being considered "did not work out." McLaughlin said many different sites were considered.

He said upgrading and remodeling the current hospital building, which opened in 1934 as the West Virginia Foundation for Crippled Children, was not cost effective, and it would cost less to build a new facility.

Swaim said he's excited about the new hospital. "It will be great for our growing community to have a new facility. It's something we need," he said.

"A hospital close by to take care of critical needs is comforting," Swaim said.

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