WVU Hospitals has different view of needs
WVU Hospitals-East officials insisted on a public hearing about War Memorial Hospital's future because they wanted to ask questions about the proposed sale of the hospital and construction of a new facility, said Albert Pilkington, president and CEO of WVU Hospitals-East.
WVU Hospitals failed to bid when War Memorial's assets were up for sale because the hospital group had a different vision of what is needed here, Pilkington told The Morgan Messenger.
He said the Morgan County Commissioners' call for bids last year didn't allow for alternatives to be presented.
"We wanted to bid from the get-go," Pilkington said. But, he added, they wanted to do something different from what was planned by Valley Health and the county commissioners wouldn't consider it.
"It was not our desire not to bid on it, but we felt we weren't allowed to bid appropriately," Pilkington said.
Tug of war
Last week, War Memorial president Neil McLaughlin said local officials and Valley Health representatives were "puzzled" by WVU Hospitals' request for a public hearing before a certificate of need is granted by the West Virginia Health Care Authority.
The Health Care Authority agreed to hold a hearing, though a date had not been set as of presstime.
The certificate of need is required before Valley Health can buy War Memorial's business assets from the county commissioners and build a new hospital along Fairview Drive, as planned.
Valley Health owns and operates Winchester Medical Center and four smaller hospitals in Virginia and West Virginia. The company has managed War Memorial Hospital since 1989.
WVU Hospitals-East owns and operates Martinsburg City Hospital and Jefferson Memorial Hospital.
War Memorial president McLaughlin said the hearing had the potential to delay the start of a new hospital here by six months, in addition to holding up the hospital sale.
A different view
WVU Hospitals-East did not intend to interfere with the building of a new hospital but felt they were blocked from being a player last year, Pilkington said.
WVU Hospitals asked to meet with the commission but county attorney Richard Gay advised the commissioners not to meet with them during the bid process, he said.
WVU felt closed out of the process because Gay is also War Memorial's attorney while hospital president McLaughlin works for Valley Health, Pilkington said.
There is more than one way to provide health services to the county, he said.
Rather than building a hospital to the specifications provided, WVU pictured something more like a critical care facility. They preferred a hospital with fewer beds, but with a state-of-the-art emergency room and an emphasis on outpatient services.
According to WVU Hospitals' needs analysis of the county, about 60% of the business would be outpatient, Pilkington said.
Because they were being forced to bid on new hospital specifications set by Valley Health, WVU Hospitals passed at that time, he said.
If they had been able to meet with the commissioners last summer, the upcoming public hearing might have been avoided, Pilkington said.
Hearing to be announced
WVU Hospitals' call for a public hearing was just a request with no details about their opposition, said Timothy Adkins, director of the Certificate of Need Division for the State Health Care Authority.
Adkins expected the hearing would be set in the next couple months.
"There's a concerted effort by everyone to get this settled," Adkins said.