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Concerns aired about process of Berkeley Springs hospital sale

July 15, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Selling War Memorial Hospital did not meet public opposition at a hearing Monday night, but some of the 60 Morgan County residents who attended voiced concerns about the process.

Commission President Glen R. Stotler said the Request For Proposal (RFP) to sell the county-owned hospital is being drafted by County Attorney Richard Gay.

The hospital will be sold only to an entity with a "proven track record of providing health care services on the new (hospital) site," Stotler said. The buyer will purchase the assets of War Memorial Hospital, and the new hospital is to be operational by Dec. 31, 2011, according to the RFP.

Stotler said the old hospital real estate is not for sale. It will only be leased to the buyer until the new hospital is built. All employees have to be maintained, he said.

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Some residents were concerned that the commissioners did not have a background in health care services to be able to choose the new hospital owners.

"It is still in draft form and not published yet," Gay said of the RFP. The proposal will be evaluated and someone with experience in health care will help, he said.

Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson said Gay is prepared to send it for review to outside counsel that is knowledgeable in health care issues.

Once the proposal is finished, it will take about 90 days to see if there is any interest, Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim said. If there is no entity that meets the requirements, the county with go forward to build a new hospital.

Stotler stressed that no money comes from the taxpayer to run War Memorial Hospital.

"It's a business. It pays for itself," he said.

Neil McLaughlin, the hospital's vice president of operations, said the hospital's recent profitability for one year was $1 million.

Stacy Dugan, Democratic nominee for the Morgan County Commission seat that is currently held by Stotler, said "I'm delighted with the sale of the hospital and hope that the money goes to the courthouse debt."

Dugan asked if WVU Hospitals-East or Valley Health Systems were private entities and would therefore pay taxes on the property.

Stotler said he thought they were nonprofit, but not publicly owned, and would pay taxes.

The new hospital site is on 80 acres off Fairview Drive, and a question was raised of what those residents thought of a hospital being built there.

"I live on Fairview Drive," Tom Zahnow said. "I don't have a problem with it."

Swaim said, "Neighbors like the idea."

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