California hospital company leaves WV holding the bag

In a healthcare industry newsletter profile of Alecto Healthcare Services, company CEO Lex Reddy said their mission was to save hospitals that provide essential services in rural areas.

“We often seek out communities that are underserved,” he told Inside Healthcare, with the goal of providing services considered essential.

That was the mission statement when the Irvine, California-based company bought hospitals in and near West Virginia; Fairmont Regional Medical Center in 2014, and the companion hospitals Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and the East Ohio Regional Medical Center in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 2017.

Each of the hospitals was financially troubled, so the sales prompted optimism.  “Alecto is just as committed to the quality of care that our hospitals have provided for more than century in the Ohio Valley, and this partnership solidifies the future of these two great community hospitals,” Michael Caruso, president and CEO of OVHS&E, said at the time.

But those hopes were quickly dashed.  Alecto announced last August 7th that it would close the two Wheeling-area hospitals in two to three months; the doors closed less than a month later, putting hundreds of people out of work and sending patients and healthcare providers scrambling.

Fairmont Regional Medical Center’s estimated 600 employees received notice this week that Alecto is closing their hospital within weeks.  That announcement came just a few months after the worried employees and patients were told that the two hospital closings in the Wheeling area would not affect Fairmont.

In both instances, there were rumblings of the hospitals’ financial problems, but still employees and the communities were blindsided.  What happened to the promises by Alecto of continuing community-based healthcare?

That’s a good question, and one that deserves an answer. The House of Delegates passed a resolution Thursday calling on state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to investigate the business practices of Alecto to see if the company violated any state laws.

The resolution says Alecto has been an unwilling partner in discussions to possibly keep the hospitals open.  “Multiple solutions have been offered to assist Alecto which have fallen on deaf ears and cold hearts,” reads the resolution.

Governor Jim Justice and lawmakers from Marion County met with Fairmont Regional Medical Center workers and officials yesterday to try to plot a strategy going forward.  It’s believed that WVU Medicine, the state’s largest healthcare provider based just a short distance away in Morgantown, may be able to help, but exactly how is still unclear.

Alecto was once viewed as a savior for distressed hospitals in our area. The state and communities bent over backward to accommodate the company’s needs in hopes of creating a new long-term partnership that would be good for both.

However, when times got tough, Alecto chose to cut and run, leaving West Virginians to clean up the considerable messes they are leaving behind.

 





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