Alecto Public Hearing Is April 20

WHEELING — The West Virginia Health Care Authority today set April 20 as the date for Wheeling Hospital’s requested public hearing on Alecto Healthcare Services’ application for a certificate of need to purchase Ohio Valley Medical Center.

The hearing date is nine days later than proposed originally. Wheeling Hospital’s attorney objected Monday to a proposed April 11 date for the public hearing. Alecto’s attorney responded that time is paramount to completing the acquisition of OVMC.

In a hearing order entered today, the health care authority also rescheduled a pre-hearing conference for April 14, a week later than proposed originally. In addition, the health care authority extended the deadline for filing replacement pages to the initial CON application by one day to Wednesday; set a March 27 deadline for filing motions for discovery and ordered completion of discovery by April 7.

Today’s order also stated that dispositive and preliminary motions and subpoena requests are to be filed by April 11.

Wheeling Hospital’s request for a hearing was filed with the health care authority Friday by attorney Thomas G. Casto of the Charleston law firm of Lewis, Glasser, Casey & Rollins. A certificate of need is required under West Virginia law for OVMC’s sale.

Alecto, based in Irvine, Calif., announced on Jan. 27 its intent to purchase OVMC and its sister facility, East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry.

The setting of a hearing date was delayed Monday because of Wheeling Hospital’s objection. A conference call was conducted Monday on the health care authority’s proposed time frame for the public hearing, filing of motions, discovery and pre-hearing conference.

Participating in the call were Sonia D. Chambers, chair of the authority’s board; Cynthia H. Dellinger, the authority’s general counsel; Casto and attorney Michael Garrison, representing Alecto. Garrison is from the Spilman Thomas & Battle law office in Morgantown.

During the call, Dellinger said, “We’re looking at trying to compress the time frame as it is an acquisition … There’s some flexibility in there.”

Chambers acknowledged the proposed schedule was tight. “We didn’t want to make the process too long such that it would be overly administratively burdensome. Thus, our desire to compress it,” she said, but added the authority wants “to allow the public to have full knowledge of all the facts of the transaction.”

Casto argued that the original proposed time frame “restricts Wheeling Hospital’s chance for a full and fair hearing. It’s a little bit too compressed.”

Casto said, “I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve had quick hearings, but I’ve never had anything remotely close to this quick … This is not the normal course.”

In response, Garrison said, “Time is paramount and of the essence to Alecto and, I believe, to OVMC. I don’t represent them (OVMC).”

Garrison also said, “We don’t think a hearing is warranted in the first place, but that is an argument for another day and place. The longer it takes, the more the risk of not being a transaction.”

Alecto’s attorney said its motions will indicate “who we might want to talk to, including, but not limited, to Bishop (Michael) Bransfield.” Bransfield leads Wheeling Hospital’s board of directors in his role as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

The WVHCA officials asked Casto how much more time was needed to prepare for the public hearing. He replied, “I would think another two weeks mixed into the schedule. I don’t think that would be unreasonable. I don’t need a month, but a couple of weeks.”

The state of Ohio does not have a certificate of need process, but Alecto must secure approval from the Ohio attorney general, Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Medicaid for its purchase of East Ohio Regional Hospital.