WVU, Sistersville General Hospital Teaming Up
By MILES LAYTON
SISTERSVILLE – WVU Medicine and the Sistersville General Hospital want to cooperatively develop a new health care facility, according to John A. May, SGH chief executive officer.
May said WVU Medicine has committed to building an ambulatory care center in or near Sistersville. WVU Medicine has provided a list of intended services and minimum staffing levels for the proposed center. He said the hospital may “retire” its current facility at some point in the future, but not at the present time.
“Ultimately, Sistersville General Hospital will close its current facility and it be replaced by a new facility owned and operated by WVU Medicine,” he said.
May made sure to clarify that the hospital is not closed nor are there plans to close.
“WVU has proposed a path to provide a new facility to our community and bring their brand of medicine to Tyler and Pleasants counties,” he said. “There are undoubtedly other options that we have yet explored. It is my intention to insure that my board has the information, including an understanding of options, prior to moving forward with any proposal for the future of Sistersville General Hospital.”
Amy Johns, WVU Medicine spokeswoman, said there is no official agreement in place at this time.
“We are working with Mr. May and the Sistersville community to help ensure that there is an appropriate level of care for the future. Our mutual goal is to define how best to meet the healthcare needs in Tyler County.”
The hospital announced a possible partnership in March with WVU Medicine. There is no predetermined timeline for any actions at this point, May said.
May said the hospital held a meeting on Monday so as to reassure its employees that it is not closing and the WVU is still just an offer and not the final deal. He said it is next to impossible to negotiate with potential buyers because of the requirements relating to open meetings and disclosure to the public.
“I know everyone expects a quick deal here, but in the best interest of the city and our surrounding area, I believe we need to explore all options in getting the best health care provision to our community,” May said. “I would like to see everyone get a job in the next generation of healthcare provision in Sistersville. I would like to have all of the current operations’ liabilities covered as a result of this transaction. Most of all, I would like to see us offer quality, compassionate care in our community under a sustainable model of care. Our current structure combined with our current facility are well past their useful lives.”
The SGH Board of Manager’s Executive Committee met June 13 with a representative from WVU Medicine.
“The meeting was productive, and I am optimistic that we will be able to work out an arrangement that will insure the continued provision of health care services in Sistersville and Tyler County,” May said.
He said the board continues to focus on the level of service to be provided, appropriate employment of the current staff and opportunities for potentially displaced workers, insulation of the City-to-Hospital liabilities, and construction of a new facility. Other items of concern include upgrading information systems, recruiting assistance, administrative support, population health management, and interim management services during the transition, May said.
SGH had 7,000 emergency visits last year. May said the board believes this number is significant in a county with an estimated population of 8,975 in 2015. This is particularly noteworthy since the hospital expanded its primary care services by adding providers in Middlebourne, St. Marys, and a walk-in clinic in Sistersville.
“The hospital provides many services to the community that would be lost should the hospital close,” May said. “These include everything from primary care to sports physicals for our student athletes. The economic impact of a closure would be devastating to the area. In addition, I believe that our ED/Urgent Care routinely saves the lives of members of our community.”
In March, May said rural hospitals are closing at an increasing frequency due to shrinking populations, diminishing reimbursements, labor shortages, and chronic health conditions, such as COPD or diabetes.
“It is unfortunate that so many rural residents are at risk to lose their health care providers,” he said. “Sistersville General Hospital faces the same factors that have contributed to the increasing trend of closures.”