Wheeling Hospital Plan Good News

After years of uncertainty regarding health care in the Wheeling area, there was good news last week. Wheeling Hospital will become a full member of the West Virginia University Health System.

Bad news during the past three years led to concern about the future of health care in our region. There were allegations of wrongdoing at the hospital. Then both Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital closed.

But announcement last week of a $50 million settlement between Wheeling Hospital and the Justice Department cleared the way for the move by WVU Health.

Area residents have some experience with WVU’s brand of health care. WVU Health already was managing Wheeling Hospital, under an agreement with the facility’s owner, the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Hospitals in Glen Dale and New Martinsville already are members of the system. In addition, it manages hospitals in Barnesville and Cadiz.

Wheeling Hospital is, by far, the largest and most critical local health care facility. Knowing that under WVU the hospital is secure for many years is important.

More than security is being provided, however. Economies of scale as part of WVU Health should mean better cost control for patients and a better financial foundation for Wheeling Hospital. Partnerships with other WVU hospitals and the system’s primary facilities in Morgantown will provide high-quality — often cutting-edge — treatment.

There is icing on the cake: Since 1850, Wheeling Hospital has been operated as a Catholic health care institution. WVU Health plans to maintain “the full Catholic identity” of the hospital, in the words of Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark Brennan. In other words, traditions of care familiar to local residents will continue.

Very little in modern health care occurs without the approval of state and federal agencies. So it is with WVU Health and Wheeling Hospital. It may take until next spring for all of that to occur.

The sooner, the better. Regulatory agency officials should recognize that turmoil in local health care could have ended very badly. Finalizing the WVU Health Wheeling Hospital affiliation is more than important, then — it is critical.


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