OVHS&E Entering Into Negotiations

WHEELING – Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corp. – parent company of Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital – may become an affiliate of Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Inc.

Members of the corporation’s board of trustees Kris Molnar, Jerry Narcisi and Bill Jones, along with President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Caruso and Scott Mason, an adviser with Cushman & Wakefield, made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday at OVMC. Earlier in the day the board had approved a letter of intent to enter into exclusive negotiations with CHS, based in Nashville.

The planned move could result in the corporation being partially or wholly owned by CHS. A final deal is expected to be reached in two to three months, but the plan still must receive final approval from the West Virginia Healthcare Authority.

The corporation has had financial problems over the years, but it recently announced it had experienced a “$16 million financial turnaround.” By becoming CHS affiliates, the hospitals would receive an infusion of money in the form of equipment purchases and renovations, such as at the hospitals’ emergency rooms. Such investment is expected to help the hospitals prosper, officials said.

“They will not be a passive partner, they will be an active partner. … It’s all about growth,” Mason said.

Molnar said she and her fellow task force committee members met with and talked to 12 CHS executives in Nashville before deciding to engage in negotiations. Prior to that, they spent several months considering other companies with which they could potentially work.

“This is the next logical step in a process that we are convinced will bring new resources to our community, to better serve our patients now and into the future,” Narcisi said.

CHS owns, leases or operates 134 hospitals in 29 states. In West Virginia, CHS affiliates include Bluefield Regional Medical Center, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center and Plateau Medical Center. In Ohio, CHS affiliates include Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Warren.

“They are committed to supporting local operations. Their corporate philosophy is that business and medicine is done locally, that it’s supported by local boards and local physicians and their job is to provide the resources to foster excellence in those facilities,” Jones said. “We got a sense of the quality of persons and caliber of resources that will be made available to us.”

During the negotiation process, CHS officials will be visiting the hospitals and talking with employees.

“We will include a lot of our medical staff and key personnel to go through the process to determine where we should end up at the end of the day,” Caruso said.