CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One by one, delegates representing the area served by Fairmont Regional Medical Center rose and expressed alarm over its announced closure.
The hospital today announced that more than 600 physicians, nurses and staff it will be shutting down after attempts to find a new buyer for the hospital failed.
Delegates from Marion County rose after today’s House floor session with fiery remarks about trying to save the hospital. Each blamed the hospital’s ownership while saying they had reached out to Gov. Jim Justice today to plead for help.
Delegates Mike Caputo, Linda Longstreth and Michael Angelucci, all Democrats from Marion County, rose and described their concern. Then so did House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, who worked for 15 years as a nurse in the emergency room at the Fairmont hospital.
Delegate Caputo on Fairmont hospital closure https://t.co/euPksqMWUz
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 18, 2020
The Fairmont hospital turmoil has been unfolding for weeks.
The hospital had 25 layoffs in September, and delegates from the area wrote a letter to the owner urging the hospital remain open.
When reporters asked Governor Justice about the hospital situation earlier this month he responded, “We’re on it. We’re doing a lot, a lot of work on that,” describing meetings with other players in West Virginia medical care.
“We absolutely will maintain hospital care and emergency care for those people in Fairmont.”
Justice, that day, said he would establish a rural healthcare task force with major West Virginia medical players because of the Fairmont situation and other troubles among providers.
Last fall, Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling abruptly closed, resulting in hundreds of layoffs.
Williamson Memorial Hospital in Mingo County filed for bankruptcy last fall and announced 20 layoffs last month as part of reorganization.
And Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston announced at the start of this year that it would reorganize through bankruptcy.
Fairmont Regional Medical Center issued a statement today saying millions of dollars in losses and the unsuccessful search for a buyer mean it must start the closure process.
“FRMC applauds Governor Justice’s formation of the Rural Medicine Task Force and is hopeful that a long-term solution for hospital care in Fairmont, West Virginia will be announced soon,” the hospital company stated.
“Several West Virginia hospitals have struggled to survive in recent months.FRMC has made the difficult decision to commence the wind down process in the hopes that it will help facilitate a long-term solution.”
A little after 7 p.m. today, Justice released a statement saying he had met with Senator Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and that the two would travel on Thursday to Fairmont Regional Medical Center.
“My administration has been studying various options over the past several months and meeting with delegates, senators, and other community leaders to try to find a workable solution,” Justice stated.
Caputo, a longtime delegate from Marion County, today said the hospital there is crucial for community members.
“Everyone told us they want to save the facility and then this morning we wake up to a WARN notice,” Caputo said. “Six hundred jobs, 600 families don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.”
He expressed frustration that the state has tried to provide a good business climate but closures like this result.
“Healthcare is going to be nonexistent in Marion County. It’s going to be bad for our community and the people in it. It’s just not right,” Caputo said.
Longstreth called the news devastating. She said this echoes what happened with Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, just a few weeks ago.
Fairmont Regional Medical is operated by California-based Alecto Healthcare Services, which shut down Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry in August of last year.
“There’s no reason for this to happen. We need to call them back to the table and, as Delegate Caputo says, we need to get the governor involved, get them back to the table, keep this hospital open. It’s an emergency hospital,” Longstreth said.
Angelucci is a paramedic and administrator of the Marion County Rescue Squad.
“When this happens, people with life-threatening emergencies — it can be up to an hour getting them to the nearest hospital. People are going to die. This is serious,” he said.
He spoke passionately about the possibility of lost jobs at the hospital.
“My phone has been nonstop all day with people begging: ‘Please help. Please help,'” Angelucci said.
Summers, a longtime emergency room nurse, said it is truly a sad day for people in the community.
She said she has spoken to her current employer, United Hospital Center in nearby Bridgeport, about absorbing patients’ needs. She said that’s 50 or 60 people a day in the emergency room.
“This is definitely a crisis we’re experiencing,” Summers said.