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Q&A: What impact will the closures of OVMC and EORH have on the region?

Robert McHenry, 50, of Morristown, water department worker

“We occasionally need to use emergency rooms, and I’m just wondering what kind of backup that’s going to cause,” he said. “Are the hospitals that are left open in the area going to be able to handle all the other patients? And the jobs … that’s going to have a major effect on this area.”

Loretta Chambers, 45, of Wheeling, former OVMC nurse

“Even at that time, OVAC was having financial issues. They were losing a lot of people even that time,” she said, adding that she found the smaller OVMC a better experience. “The staff at OVMC was always friendlier, compared to Wheeling Hospital.”

She said she now works in Pennsylvania, adding that there is comparative low pay for certified nurses in West Virginia.

“The low pay in this state impacted a lot of people in health care … in Ohio and West Virginia,” she said, adding that the closures may impact the ability of people to seek health care.

Ben Schneider, 72, of Wheeling, photographer

“It’s terrible. I think it’s a good example of mismanagement. The Ohio Valley Medical Center used to be one of the top hospitals in this area and it had a whole lot going,” he said, adding he knew many people who worked at OVMC. He did public relations work for OVMC in the 1980s and 1990s. “The good people left. I don’t know if it was cost-cutting or whatever, but they whittled it down to the minimum frame and then they couldn’t provide good services … I think the California group was the last nail in the coffin. I think as long as they were being managed locally, there was more care to provide … inexpensive and proper medical service.”

He said he already faces delays in seeing his doctor due to overloaded medical facilities, and the wait may increase.

“It’s going to be a lot harder for people to get medical care once OVMC closes.”

Nick Ellefson of Bethlehem, doctor

“We’ll have a lot more people coming in. The administration’s trying to figure out how to take care of the community and help with the influx of patients” Ellefson said, a family doctor at Wheeling Hospital’s emergency room.

“It’s still early, I haven’t had time to see how it’s impacting the community yet, but we’ll see here shortly. I know before that we had a lot of patients that we coming from a long ways away. It’s going be a strain on the community.”

Bruce Walmsley, 65, of Florida, retired.

He maintains a residence in Wheeling, is retired but worked at the OVMC and EORH as emergency medical director from 1980 to 2000. “I know both hospitals,” he said. “When I came to Wheeling in 1980, they just opened up the new hospital OVMC. … It was a very exciting time. … It’s very sad. It’s just a hard thing to believe could actually happen. Though I do believe when the HMO (The Health Plan) formed in Wheeling, they had an exclusive contract that all of their subscribers had to go to Wheeling Hospital, and that hurt OVMC very deeply. It took a great toll and over the years, I think that was the start of the downhill slide of OVMC … I think it’ll have a dramatic effect. East Ohio and OVMC took care of a lot of people in this valley. Combined, they saw 40,000 people in their emergency department. Wheeling Hospital sees 40,000 in their department. They obviously can’t see 80,000 … People aren’t going to be able to get care as promptly. They’re going to have to travel outside the valley.”

Jim Kinerim, 81, of Wheeling, retired

He is concerned he and others in his age bracket will face delays in medical service.

“You’re only going to have two (hospitals) left, Glen Dale and Wheeling. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on both of them,” he said.

Beth Collins, 32, of Wheeling, Catholic Charities West Virginia employee.

She is the mother of three children, ages 5 months to 5 years old and carried 5-month-old Emory Collins while she considered the impact of the closures.

“We usually use Wheeling Hospital, but I am concerned about the ER being even more packed than what it already is, especially when you have young kids,” she said, adding she was also concerned about a possible loss of mental health services in the Ohio Valley. “OVMC was the place for people to do mental hygiene orders.”

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