CEO: Wheeling Hospital looking to add services, employees after announced OVMC closure

WHEELING, W.Va. — Just days after closing announcements for two hospitals in the Upper Ohio Valley, the CEO of Wheeling Hospital said his staff members were already looking for ways to operate more efficiently and to potentially add to available health services.

By October, doors could be permanently closed at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio, both Alecto Healthcare Services facilities which have been serving patients for more than 100 years.

“We thought that they would consolidate their resources to one campus, but to turn around and have Alecto Healthcare close both hospitals was a little shocking to us,” Doug Harrison, Wheeling Hospital CEO, said during an appearance on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Doug Harrison, Wheeling Hospital CEO

In all, more than 1,100 employees at OVMC and EORH could lose their jobs.

Next week, Wheeling Hospital was planning to host a job fair in Downtown Wheeling.

The job fair, with hiring managers on site, was scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 13 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at River City, 14th and Main Street.

“We’ll try to hire as many people as we can. We’ve got several openings here at Wheeling and a lot of our outpatient sites,” Harrison said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a home for a lot of those folks,” Harrison said.

WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale was also taking applications, director of Human Resources Cole Elliott told MetroNews Friday.

“Anything patient care-related,” he said. “Support services, RN, LPN, CNA, environmental, dietary, we’re looking for anything and everything we could place here.”

Workers at OVMC and East Ohio are invited to the Reynolds Hospital staff picnic Friday evening in Glen Dale. There were will be an application table set up there from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

As for patients, “When I look at the region, Wheeling Hospital, we have been absorbing a lot of those patients already. They’ve been making the choice to come over to Wheeling Hospital. They’re also making a choice to go down the river to WVU Reynolds Hospital.”

Harrison was most concerned about the behavioral health services offered at OVMC.

“Wheeling Hospital has no in-patient psychiatric beds and so, we as a team, are looking internally to see if we might be able to open some inpatient psychiatric beds as a short-term fix and then look at ways to partner with folks on the outpatient component,” Harrison said.

Wheeling Hospital officials were also considering possibly establishing a couple of urgent care centers to help with an expected increase in ER patients.

Overall, Harrison said, “We will have to become more efficient in how we process patients.”

Greater efficiency was the focus of a Thursday meeting for executives at Wheeling Hospital and Harrison was supposed to talk with officials at OVMC on Friday.

Alecto officials have said the closure decision for OVMC and EORH could be reversed if a buyer is found, though the company reported little success ahead of this week’s announcements.

In addition to the lack of a buyer or partner, hospital officials also cited $37 million in losses during the past two years, alleged past unfair competition from Wheeling Hospital currently being litigated and growing hospital improvement needs as reasons for the closures.

Harrison took over as Wheeling Hospital CEO in June when that hospital entered into a management agreement with WVU Medicine.

“OVMC is not the only one losing money. Wheeling Hospital, right now, is losing money as well,” he warned, citing the growing number of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“This is not just a Wheeling market issue.”

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