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Plans for new W.Va. hospital stymied

July 21, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Valley Health has been forced to halt plans for taking over the existing War Memorial Hospital and moving forward with building the new hospital. 

Neil McLaughlin, the hospital's vice president of operations, said he was notified about two weeks ago that West Virginia University Hospitals-East filed a notice of opposition to the Certificate of Need (CON) application that must be approved by the West Virginia Health Care Authority. 

McLaughin issued a press release Tuesday saying, "opposition to the application came as a huge disappointment to Valley Health and War Memorial officials. A public hearing is now required, which will delay start of the project by a potential minimum of six months and will likely add to its cost."

The county-owned War Memorial Hospital assets were sold to Valley Health for $2.75 million in December 2008. The sale becomes final when the certificate of need is issued to Valley Health to operate the existing hospital and a certificate of need is issued to them for a new hospital.   

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He said the Morgan County Commission was notified of the delay immediately. 

McLaughlin said hospital officials have been trying to find out what the concerns are at WVU Hospitals-East, but no reason has yet been given and they cannot agree upon a date to meet. 

Health Care Authority attorney Marianne Kapinos said the agency has issued an order that a public hearing date must be agreed upon by Friday. She said the hearing will occur in September or October. 

Teresa McCabe, marketing and development vice president for WVU Hospitals-East, said "WVU requested a public hearing because it just wants more information."  

WVU Hospitals-East President and CEO Albert Pilkington issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"WVU Hospitals-East did request that the West Virginia Health Care Authority conduct a public hearing on the certificate of need filed by Valley Health to acquire the assets of Morgan County War Memorial Hospital. 

"Public hearing requests are very common in projects of this magnitude. WVU Hospitals-East would like to have access to more information regarding the acquisition, and have the opportunity to ask questions. A public hearing request is the appropriate process for obtaining more details about these types of projects. 

"By no means do we intend to interfere with the construction of a new hospital for the residents of Morgan County. As a regional health system, we know the importance of providing residents access to quality health care services close to home."

McLaughlin said "we wanted to alert the public that our plans to begin moving forward in August with the bidding process will not happen. We will continue to try to resolve this." 

"We are available to talk with WVU Hospitals-East. Just name a time and place," McLaughlin said. 

Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim said, "I'm very disappointed. This is the time to build the hospital, we need the hospital and we don't need this delay. I hope it's not too late to work this out."

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