WILLIAMSON - “In today’s current situation, the City of Williamson views the Appalachian Regional Hospital as a valuable asset for our community,” remarked Mayor Darrin McCormick. “However, the acquisition of the Williamson Memorial Hospital (WMH) by any non-profit entity would be devastating to the city’s budget and our ability to provide services to the public will take a direct hit. It would prove detrimental to the quality of life currently enjoyed by citizens of Williamson, the county and the entire valley region.”
Mayor McCormick, during an interview with the Williamson Daily News, was speaking about the purchase of the Williamson Memorial Hospital (for-profit heath-care facility) by the Appalachian Regional Health-Care system (non-profit) that is slated to be a done deal by February, 2014.
“Traditionally, WMH has always been more than a partner of the local community, they have instead, played the role of leader throughout the years and understand the importance of that role,” McCormick said.
If the buy-out transaction of WMH goes as planned, the non-profit health-care system that is acquiring the Williamson based hospital would not pay Business and Occupational (B&O) taxes to the city, which would reek havoc on the budget, considering that B&O taxes makes up 34 percent of Williamson’s annual budget.
“The loss of these B&O taxes will affect every aspect of our city government,” said the mayor. “The worst hit would probably be to our emergency medical services providers, who act not only as firefighters who respond to those type of calls, but who also act as a first responder. Since the fire station if manned 24/7, the have the ability to respond to any emergency call within a matter of minutes as apposed to a volunteer service who have to report to the station prior to answering a call for help. “
“When you’re talking about a matter of life and death for someone in need, time is of the essence. When it’s your family member in distress, you want emergency personnel on scene as quickly as possible, and that is one service record the city has always taken pride in. In turn, home owners insurance and fire insurance for those living within city limits will increase.”
McCormick stated that although this may be a smart strategic plan for ARH, it is not a good decision for the community as a whole.
“What I’m hearing from WMH employees is that it’s a less than desirable workplace environment right now,” relayed the mayor. “A lot of them are now actively seeking work outside of this region. I have city employees that are extremely concerned about the longevity of their jobs, many of whom have chose their careers with us. They are very worried about what the future holds and what it will mean for themselves and their families.”
“Word on the street is that the ARH system had to borrow the full purchase price plus working capitol, I’ve been told the amount is in the vicinity of $15 million,” said McCormick. “Seldom can you borrow 120 percent of what something is worth and it be a financially profitable deal.”
“Competition is a good thing for consumers. In my opinion, in a business marketplace, eliminating your competition may sound good but it’s not when you think of how detrimental it is to the community.”
“Consolidation inevitably results in fewer choices in emergency situations, it is better to have two facilities available that can triage patients and provide the proper care and treatment in a timely and efficient manner rather than one emergency room being responsible for a large number of patients they can’t accommodate.”
McCormick spoke of how WMH had changed throughout the years, recollecting on the days when it was a locally owned and operated facility that was constantly aware of the needs of the community and strived to accommodate each one. He commented that only after the hospital began being managed by large companies did it become distant and uncaring.
“There’s a management team away from here is making decisions based on financial numbers instead of the needs of the local people,” he remarked.
The mayor said that the city will see drastic reductions of the quality of services and the quality of life for each and every citizen of the City of Williamson if the sale goes through.
“Citizens that are as concerned about this issue as I am are encouraged to contact their elected state officials and the Governor’s office and ask them to get involved, and contact the WV Health Care Authority because without them agreeing to grant the certificate of need to ARH, the purchase of WMH cannot go through.”
More information on this issue will be released to public as it becomes available. The Williamson City Council will meet this evening at the City Hall at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.