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Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off new hospital construction

June 04, 2010|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. -- The vision for a new War Memorial Hospital in Morgan County started about seven years ago, and its construction finally began Friday morning with a groundbreaking ceremony.

Valley Health of Winchester, Va., which managed the county-owned hospital for about 20 years, finalized the purchase of War Memorial Hospital assets for $2.75 million from Morgan County in March.

Valley Health and the Morgan County Commission agreed to the sale in December 2008, but it took until January to get the Certificate of Need (CON) approved by the state.

"We believe" was the theme of the project War Memorial Hospital president Neil McLaughlin told more than 200 people who attended the event at the Fairview Drive site.

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"It confirms for me that local citizens want local health care delivered locally. It's also great testament for the decisions labored over by the commissioners in considering the sale. If citizens had any doubts, it was confirmed today that approval was met," McLaughlin said.

Hospital community relations director Lyn Goodwinsaid the $30 million 87,000-square-foot building will be completed in the spring of 2012.

"This has been a long-awaited day and it's finally happening. We're excited," she said.

"It took seven years to get this," War Memorial Hospital board of directors chair Bill Locke said. "There were bumps along the way to getting here in finding the land, getting the funding and finally getting CON approval.

"We could not have kept the dream going without the help of Morgan County," Locke said. He said when you can see the building's steel structure, "the dream will be soaring."

Morgan County Commission President Brenda J. Hutchinson said by selling the hospital to Valley Health, money was brought to the county (which will be used to help pay for the new county courthouse), and with the construction of the new hospital, "it's a wonderful economic engine and will bring jobs for years to come."

Hutchinson said as part of the purchase agreement with Valley Health, the county has a 99-year-lease for five acres on the hospital grounds that will be used for a new senior center and the county health department.

McLaughlin said the hospital will take up less than 15 acres of the 80 acres and "broadening the medical campus is a consideration."

"This whole project has so much potential," Morgan County Economic Development Authority director Bill Clark said.

EDA president Beth Peters Curtin said, "It's very dynamic to have a $30 million project in Morgan County. The project will spawn additional development opportunities," she said.

"It's $30 million in the private sector in my hometown, and that's exciting," West Virginia Del. Daryl E. Cowles said.

Morgan County Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim shed tears as he approached the podium to speak.

"I cry over happiness," he said.

Swam said after having spent 13 years as commissioner, 10 of them on the hospital board of directors, that construction of a new hospital was "even better than the new courthouse."

The new hospital will continue to be a 25-bed critical access hospital and will continue to provide long-term care for 16 people, McLaughlin said.

Swaim said one of the most important things Valley Health will do for the communityis to continue the extended-care facility in the new hospital "when others felt it was not needed." He said many hospitals do not want to provide long-term care anymore because it is not profitable.

Morgan County Commissioner Stacy A. Dugan, who works for War Memorial, said the hospital began to improve when Valley Health started managing it.

"Now we are going to have a new hospital. We've come a long way, she said.

Fairview Drive resident Phil Spriggs said he was happy the county will have a new hospital.

"We will be good neighbors. It's good for the community," he said.

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