Wheeling Hospital, WVU Medicine Talks Continue

WHEELING — WVU Medicine acknowledged Friday it is working with Wheeling Hospital to “expand” it role at the medical facility.

“We are operating under a management agreement with Wheeling Hospital through which we’ve been managing the hospital for the past year, and we are exploring opportunities to expand the relationship,” read the one sentence statement from WVU Medicine received by the Sunday News-Register on Friday.

WVU Medicine has overseen financial management at the struggling hospital since June 2019, when Douglass Harrison was named as Wheeling Hospital’s new chief executive officer.

Harrison wore gold and blue — and a mask adorned with the WVU logo — when he recently announced the hospital had lost $30 million over the past two years, and was seeking voluntary layoffs, and was in need of a financial partner to shore up its financial future. Workers there have until Tuesday to decide whether to take a buyout.

It appeared then that WVU Medicine was being lobbied as a potential investor in the hospital.

Wheeling Hospital spokeswoman Thea Gompers said Harrison was not available for comment Friday.

Harrison, though, previously has said the hospital would not survive without immediate changes, and the securing of a “long-term strategic partner” to take over ownership of the hospital.

He acknowledged then that Wheeling Hospital was engaged in “ongoing discussions” with WVU Medicine to possibly expand its role. While West Virginia University Health System signed an agreement last year to manage the medical center, the hospital’s board of directors and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston still oversee its operation.

Negotiations between the entities are said to be affected by an upcoming legal settlement that reportedly could cost Wheeling Hospital $50 million.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the hospital in March 2019. It accused the hospital of allegedly paying kickbacks to doctors since 2007, and giving them incentive payments based on how much patient business they referred back to the hospital.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said last week he believed Wheeling Hospital was close to reaching a $50 million settlement with the federal government regarding the case.

After this is achieved, WVU Medicine will be “willing and able to come in” and work with Wheeling Hospital, according to Manchin.


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