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Hospital Closures Will Cost 1,079 Workers Their Jobs

WHEELING — WARN notices filed in Ohio and West Virginia reveal that 1,079 workers will lose their jobs with the impending closures of two hospitals in Wheeling and Martins Ferry.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filings indicate 736 workers will lose their jobs at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, and an additional 343 jobs will be lost from East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry.

Alecto Healthcare Services, a California-based company that owns both hospitals, announced Aug. 7 that it plans to close OVMC and EORH as early as Oct. 7. The WARN notices are required by federal law when mass layoffs are expected.

The closures are expected to leave a major medical and economic hole on both sides of the river.

Gov. Jim Justice and Rep. David McKinley have pledged to find a replacement to fill the health care hole that would be created with the hospitals’ loss, but no suitors have been found. Many are especially concerned with OVMC’s possible closing, particularly as it pertains to the hospital’s mental health services.

“Over the past several weeks I have met with community leaders and WVU Medicine leadership to discuss the future of the hospital,” Justice said Tuesday. “I am encouraged that a plan will be in place very soon that will ensure that top-of-the-line health care remains available to everyone in the Ohio Valley and that our great medical professionals continue to have every opportunity in the world.”

But despite rumors, neither Wheeling nor Ohio County officials have been engaged in discussions with Alecto or other health care providers.

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said city leaders have had no direct discussions with any entities regarding OVMC’s future, but they have heard Alecto has been meeting with unidentified representatives.

“I do know that … there are people, companies, that have reached out. I don’t know who that is or to what level they have had for any discussions with Alecto,” Herron said Tuesday. “Our focus right now is standing ready to assist in any way possible to facilitate keeping the hospital — all or parts of it — open.”

Meanwhile, Alecto has made $60,000 in payments over the past three weeks for money it owed the city for water fees, Herron said, but the company still owes $151,602 on that bill.

The property taxes on OVMC’s facility at 2000 Eoff St. in Wheeling have been paid by a real estate holdings company that leases the building to Alecto, Herron said.

However, Alecto still has not made a payment on the $368,000 it owes for the annual fee for the city-owned Center Wheeling parking garage. And the unpaid fire service fee has increased by about a thousand dollars to $48,777 because of penalties, Herron said.

Herron said the city is continuing to work with Alecto on the late payments, but declined to say what measures the city would take against the company if they remain unpaid when the hospital closes.

“I can’t go into that at this point,” he said. “We’re certainly looking at all of our options.”

Martins Ferry officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Michael Sarrao, the executive vice president for Alecto, also could not be reached for comment.

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