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Wright: Joining WVU A ‘Win’ For Hospital

NEW MARTINSVILLE — The West Virginia University Health System’s planned purchase of Wetzel County Hospital represents a natural progression of the existing management agreement between the two entities.

Albert L. Wright Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, views the move as a good step forward for the hospital and WVU Medicine. Patients also should benefit from the facility becoming a full member of the health system.

WVU Medicine’s plans to acquire Wetzel County Hospital and Uniontown Hospital in Pennsylvania were announced last week.

The facilities are the only two hospitals slated for acquisition by WVU Medicine in 2020.

“Those are the only two planned. We want to grow at an appropriate rate. Last year, we took on three (hospitals),” Wright said.

“Our program is to be smart growth, win-win for both sides. We’re excited about both Wetzel County and Uniontown,” he added.

The purchase of Wetzel County Hospital is expected to be finalized by July 1, while the acquisition of Uniontown Hospital is slated to be completed by Dec. 31.

Once the deals are finalized, they will become WVU Medicine’s 12th and 13th hospitals, respectively.

Wetzel County Hospital entered into a management agreement with WVU Hospitals on Oct. 1, 2018. Prior to that time, it had been a clinical affiliate of WVU Medicine since 2016.

During the four-year relationship with WVU Medicine, many primary care doctors have been recruited for Wetzel County Hospital.

Like other small, rural hospitals, Wetzel County needs physician subspecialists, but they aren’t needed full-time, he said.

By joining the health system, Wetzel County Hospital will be able to share services of specialists with WVU Medicine’s Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg and Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale.

The biggest advantage, though, is that WVU Medicine’s electronic medical records can be implemented now at Wetzel County Hospital, Wright said. The system coordinates records and makes them accessible at any WVU Medicine site.

With the electronic system, “all of a patient’s information, labs, prescriptions, X-rays and progress notes follow them,” he said.

Wright acknowledged that the hospital’s purchase entails a complicated transaction for a county resource to become part of WVU Medicine.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the board of directors there,” he added. “We’ve had a great relationship with the county commissioners.”

The new alignment comes at a critical time for health care, as Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry have closed and Thomas Health Systems in Charleston has filed bankruptcy.

At such a time, Wright said, “It’s smart for a community hospital and the leadership of Wetzel County Hospital to make sure they have health care in Wetzel County for years and years to come.”

Citing WVU Medicine’s commitment to the region, he said, “We view that Ohio River Valley along W.Va. 2 as part of our responsibility. We have care points. … We want to solidify this relationship and make it permanent.”

Established in 1920, Wetzel County Hospital is a 58-bed facility that employs 235 people.

Currently, WVU Medicine is composed of 11 hospitals. It also provides management services to Wheeling Hospital, Harrison Community Hospital in Cadiz, Barnesville Hospital and Garrett Regional Medical Center in Oakland, Maryland.

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