Not a bad deal at all
Some will disagree, but we think Morgan County Commissioners Tommy Swaim and Brenda Hutchinson did the right thing in voting to sell the county-owned War Memorial Hospital. Unfortunately the deal didn't bring in as much money as hoped, but that doesn't mean it's a bad one.
We first brought up the idea of selling the hospital with county officials 18 months ago when the economy was buzzing. At the time the commissioners were searching for money to build a new courthouse. We saw the hospital as an asset that could be sold. We'd also started pondering how the county could pay for a new $30-million hospital if it was so difficult to pay the interest for a $9 million loan for the courthouse.
The more we thought about it, the more we wondered why the county was in the hospital business at all. For instance, was it really necessary that the Morgan County Commissioners got named as defendants every time someone sued the hospital? Seemed to us that hospitals were better run by people who knew the ropes.
So, the bottom line is this...Valley Health Systems, which has been managing the hospital, will pay $2,750,000 for the business, assume the debt and responsibility for the new hospital, and lease the present facilities from the county for the next couple years.
Once a new hospital is open, the county will own several properties that can be sold, leased or used for public purposes. These include the present hospital building and land, some medical offices south of Berkeley Springs, and five acres of the new hospital site on Fairview Drive.
Like the county commissioners, we wish there had been more active bidding and that the final price was higher, but it didn't work out that way.
Through their negotiations, the commissioners managed to bring some money home and got out from under future hospital problems. And they made sure that a new hospital, run by a quality health provider, is in the works. That's not a bad deal.