CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Secretary Bill Crouch says the state could look to the private sector to sell licensed beds at four state-run nursing homes or sell facilities altogether.
Crouch appeared before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance and this week’s interim meetings with a report on the future of four state-run nursing homes and how to send the patients to private long-term care facilities.
A bill that would close four state-run nursing homes, Hopemont Hospital in Preston County, the John Manchin, Sr. Health Care Center in Fairmont, Lakin Hospital in Mason County and the Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley and send the patients to private long-term care facilities, passed a House committee in this year’s regular session but didn’t go anywhere after that.
That led to lawmakers wanting Crouch to report on the hospitals and some recommendations.
Crouch said selling the licensed beds and then replace with smaller, new buildings would be as an economic boost to every region.
“Look at these as economic development projects in these four communities where the facilities are located. There will be construction projects where people are hired, we have to increase employment in the communities,” Crouch said.
Crouch also mentioned how salaries would be higher for hospital employees than in-state government-run buildings, if sold to the private sector. Crouch said the state could take funds from the sale of licensing and provide them back to employees as a bonus.
Crouch said he has three companies he is discussing sales with.
The Manchin facility was built in 1899, Hopemont in 1913, Lakin in 1926 and Withrow in 1927. Each of them has a host of maintenance issues, Crouch said, and this resolution would eliminate a long-term liability.
“We have maintenance costs that are unbelievable in these buildings. We have huge numbers of maintenance workers in these buildings that the private sectors would not have,” Crouch said.
Crouch said the patients deserve better living conditions, such as more light in buildings, outdoor activity and places to sit, which he said are not being offered now.
Crouch proposed privatizing the four hospitals during the 2017 legislative session but a bill dealing with only Hopemont passed the House. The Senate killed the bill.