CHARLESTON - As the future of the Williamson Memorial Hospital (WMH) hangs in the balance and remains uncertain, WV State Legislatures representing the southern portion of the state gathered at the Capitol on Monday to meet with Joe Grossman, the President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Organization and Tim Hatfield, the CEO and Administrator for the S. Williamson ARH location.
House Majority Leader Harry Keith White, Delegate Justin Marcum (Mingo), Senators Art Kirkendoll (Logan) and Dr. Ron Stollings (Boone) attended the meeting to voice their concern of the possible job loss of the current employees of the WMH if the sell of the facility goes through with ARH being the purchaser, as well as the alleged devastating affect the City of Williamson would experience if they no longer received Business and Occupational (B&O) taxes from the largest employer within city limits. The ARH network is a non-profit organization (they are not required to pay B&O taxes) while WMH is currently a for-profit business that does pay taxes, that make up a large portion of the annual Williamson budget.
Marcum spoke with the Williamson Daily News on Tuesday to discuss details of the meeting, and said that although they were fed a lot of information by the ARH representatives, they still received very few answers or facts regarding the buy-out.
“We left the meeting with a minimal amount of knowledge and understanding, just a bit more than what we were aware of when we walked through the door when it first began,” remarked the delegate. “A lot of talking - but no specifics.”
The legislatures said that they were told during the meeting that ARH plans to purchase the WMH and then use it as a Behavioural Medical Facility that may include treatment for psychiatric patients and other mental disorders. If all goes as planned, ARH officials stated they would more than likely retain approximately 75 percent of the current workforce in place at WMH.
“While we applaud ARH’s efforts to continue to employ three-fourths of Memorial’s employees, what about the remaining 25 percent? Is it fair for them to lose their jobs? I think not,” said White.
“In today’s economy when you see people all around you trying to find work and struggling to support their families and make ends meet, we cannot afford to see yet another business lay off employees who have been dedicated and committed and have made WMH the fine facility that it is today.”
In regards to the loss of B&O taxes to the city, Marcum stated that Grossman and Hatfield told them they were working on a strategy that would hopefully provide a portion of that amount to the city, and said that inflicting hardships on any town or entity was not their agenda.
“One issue that I personally have is that those individuals or families who have PEIA insurance through the state, such as government workers or school personnel, cannot use the local ARH hospital because they’re not a participating provider,” said Marcum. “This means that if that doesn’t change, those with PEIA insurance will have to utilize other hospitals such as the Logan Regional Medical Center. You’re talking about no longer being able to use a hospital within a few minutes from your home. That will create a hardship on people that may not be able to drive themselves, such as retirees,” remarked Marcum.
“I hope that a plan can be put into play that works for everyone and that WMH is not closed just to eliminate ARH’s competition.”
“When ARH bought the hospital at Mann, it was closed. Is that what the future holds for Williamson Memorial? I pray that it’s not,” concluded Marcum.