Rescuing Our Local Hospitals

News this week that Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry are to be closed hit some area residents like a hammer blow. For a time, it stunned us.

Give Gov. Jim Justice credit for shaking off the blow quickly and reacting positively.

“I think it caught us all a little off-guard,” Justice remarked Thursday morning. He followed that up quickly with a pledge of action. As explained in our story on page one today, Justice and other state officials are now exploring what, if anything, can be done to save the hospitals.

Obviously, the fact one of them is in Ohio complicates the matter. Hopefully, Gov. Mike DeWine and other Buckeye State officials are working with Justice’s administration.

The loss of as many as 1,200 jobs at the hospitals is bad enough. But, as Justice is aware, there are other troubling aspects to the closure announcement. One of them is that OVMC has the only psychiatric unit in the Northern Panhandle. Especially now, with mental health a critical concern, loss of that treatment option could be devastating.

Justice’s can-do attitude is refreshing, but it comes with a dose of reality. It may be that OVMC and EORH cannot be preserved in their current forms, the governor noted. But rescuing significant segments of the two health care facilities is important and, perhaps, achievable.

As the governor said, “there has to be some level of soft landing here … in this situation, we’ve got to get in full motion.”

Wheeling municipal government already has done much to keep OVMC afloat. That came about two years ago, when Alecto took over the hospitals. Perhaps there is more the city can do to help.

Any rescue strategy will have to be devised quickly. Alecto’s plan is to close the hospitals Oct. 7. Steps already are being taken to wind down operations.

It may be that nothing can be done. That possibility must be faced. But the governor’s attitude, that admitting defeat is unacceptable, is right. We’ll never know if the hospitals can be saved unless we try.

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