WHEELING, W.Va. — For Mayor Glenn Elliott, the news of Ohio Valley Medical Center suspending its acute and emergency medical services immediately on Wednesday night came as a surprise.
Alecto Healthcare Services, the owner of OVMC in Wheeling and partner Ohio Regional Hospital (EORH) in Martins Ferry, Ohio announced in early August that both facilities would be closing in 60-to-90 days, putting the earliest date October 7. On Tuesday, OVMC announced the closure of those services would take place at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
“We were blindsided by the news of the imminent closures,” Elliott told MetroNews on Wednesday. “We’ve obviously known the hospital is in serious financial issues. “We have expected at some point if they can’t find a buyer that bankruptcy is probably inevitable. But I was not prepared yesterday (Tuesday) for the announcement of the closure.
“That is something that is a concern because we always worry about the impact of healthcare services in the community.”
Since the announced future closure on August 7 due to $37 million in losses over the past two years, employees have looked elsewhere for positions and patients scrambling to find new healthcare. Wheeling Hospital officials told MetroNews that more than 200 employees from OVMC/EORH have applied there.
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filings indicated 736 workers at OVMC will lose jobs and an additional 343 jobs will be lost in Martins Ferry at EORH.
Elliott said that could be the reason for the abrupt shutdown of the two crucial services.
“Since they announced the closure, they have lost employees and accounts were down making the hospital less sustainable in the short term,” he said. “I don’t know that as a fact but I believe a lot of people were looking elsewhere to get treatment and employees have been leaving.”
In part of a released statement Tuesday, OVMC CEO Daniel Dunmyer said: “Although we made every effort to interest WVU Medicine and Wheeling Hospital in taking over part of our downtown campus, they simply were not interested in our facilities that provide acute and emergency medical services.”
Loss of emergency room services and mental health services at OVMC such adult behavioral health center Hillcrest and the Robert C. Byrd Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Center have been feared. Talks to save the entities involved include WVU Medicine, which has ownership in Wheeling Hospital, the city of Wheeling with state and local officials.
Elliott said right now in the short-term, the city needs to make sure acute care is provided and hospital services just don’t go dark without making sure all the tools are in place throughout the community to provide for those needs.
In the long-term, Elliott said the city is remaining to take on this 3-part issue with healthcare services, job loss and real estate with the hole being left in downtown.
“We have to figure out the best use for this facility going forward,” he said. “We have to make sure as many of the jobs as possible are saved and repositioned somewhere else in the community.
“We have to make sure the psychiatric care that OV was so essential to providing to our community continues in some capacity locally.”
A candlelight vigil is being planned by employees and community members outside of the OVMC ER at 11:45 Wednesday night, with closure expected at 11:59 p.m.