Certificate of Need Bill Signed by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

Alecto believes new law will expedite sale

Photo by Scott McCloskey Ohio Valley Medical Center registration clerk Emily DelGuzzo works in the hospital’s front lobby Monday.

WHEELING — Alecto Healthcare Services officials believe the firm’s purchase of Ohio Valley Medical Center will be expedited by a new West Virginia law that creates a certificate of need exemption.

Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill Monday, press secretary Grant Herring said. The legislation takes effect immediately.

Alecto’s attorney, Michael Garrison, said Monday, “On behalf of Alecto, we believe it’s the right decision by the governor. We are certainly appreciative of his foresight to sign the bill and very appreciative of the legislative leadership, all of the local delegation, especially Sen. (Ryan) Ferns (R-Ohio), that thought about this issue clearly and put this legislation together to expedite this transaction.”

The new law creates an exemption from the certificate of need requirement for the purchase of a financially distressed hospital. That exemption is expected to aid Alecto Healthcare Services in its attempt to buy OVMC, which Alecto contends is financially distressed.

Discussing the bill’s approval, Garrison said, “We are really gratified. Time is of the essence for this transaction. This new law will allow us to expedite this transaction. It would not have been possible without the employees of OVMC and the community.”

“There was quite an outpouring (of support). … That says something about how much people care for choice in health care in Wheeling.”

Wheeling Hospital officials had no comment on the legislation’s approval. Prior to the passage of House Bill 2459, Wheeling Hospital requested a public hearing on Alecto’s application for a certificate of need for the purchase of OVMC. The West Virginia Health Care Authority scheduled an April 20 public hearing, but that proceeding is expected to be canceled in light of the new law.

Garrison said he will communicate with the health care authority that, as specified in the legislation, the transaction should be exempted automatically from the certificate of need requirement.

The bill states: “Any person purchasing a financially distressed hospital, or all or substantially all of its assets, that has applied for a certificate of need after Jan. 1, 2017, shall qualify for an exemption from certificate of need.”

Garrison said OVMC is not in bankruptcy or receivership, but meets other definitions of financial distress listed in the bill.

The health care authority received Alecto’s application for a certificate of need Feb. 6.

Last week, Garrison filed a motion with the health care authority to strike Wheeling Hospital as an “affected person” in the sale of OVMC and to cancel the public hearing in the case.

Asked if the health care authority had ruled on the motion, he said, “I haven’t heard anything, which is not unusual. There currently is a pre-hearing conference scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Friday, which is normally the time and the place where the authority would make those types of decisions.”

Garrison added, “It’s really a moot point. We still believe in our filing that Wheeling (Hospital) was never an affected party in the first place.”

Alecto Healthcare Services, based in Irvine, Calif., wants to buy OVMC and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry from Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corp. Alecto hopes to complete the transaction by mid- to late May.

The state of Ohio does not have a certificate of need process. Instead, the sale of EORH requires approval from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

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