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Changes Announced For SGH

By Staff | Dec 14, 2016

SISTERSVILLE — Major changes may be ahead for Sistersville General Hospital.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, SGH Board Chairwoman Linda Leasure presented three scenarios that will be under consideration when the board meets at 5:30 p.m. today at the hospital.

Any decision the board makes will be presented at a special council meeting that will be scheduled in the near future by City Hall.

Leasure said there are three options the board will be considering.

“We need to make a decision to be able to move forward and maintain health care in our community,” she said.

The first option is West Virginia University Medicine taking over control of the hospital. WVU Medicine has indicated its interest in SGH for several months. Leasure said any deal with WVU Medicine would include ambulatory care and a free-standing emergency room would remain.

Though WVU Medicine has expressed an interest in SGH, Leasure said, it would have to apply for a special waiver from the state Legislature so as to take over control because the city owns the hospital. She said a potential downside is that if there are not enough people to justify keeping the hospital’s emergency room open, then WVU Medicine could choose to end that service.

Leasure said Wetzel County Hospital has expressed an interest in SGH. WVU Medicine recently took over management of Wetzel County Hospital 11 miles away from Sistersville. Under the WVU Medicine’s umbrella, WCH would take over control of SGH’s management.

Leasure said a second option is offered by Wheeling Hospital which has expressed an interest in taking over control of SGH and leaving the hospital intact “as is.” She said SGH’s current level of service would remain the same and not be transferred to Wheeling. SGH staff would remain in place and a manager from Wheeling would work closely with SGH leaders and staff in Sistersville.

Upper management would remain based in Wheeling, she said.

Wheeling Hospital would like to add additional services and provide some upgrades to SGH’s 100-year-old building, Leasure said.

A third option would be to put the SGH up for bid and see what happens. Leasure said this is the advice of SGH legal counsel, but this scenario may present pitfalls as an outside company could bid on the project and make decisions as to what SGH is able to provide. She said city could refuse to accept any bids.

Leasure said no matter what council decides, something needs to be done because of spiraling costs and complications arising from the changing nature of health care. She said there are liability issues surrounding SGH and providing federally mandated upgrades such electronic record keeping are essential.

Leasure offered praised for interim Chief Executive Officer Brandon Chadock in the wake of John May’s resignation as CEO in October. She said it is difficult to find an applicant with critical care access knowledge because the pay is not comparable to what other similar sized facilities are able to offer.

In other business, council approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to create a 1 percent sales tax.

The sales tax would exempt cars, gasoline, prescriptions, non-prepared food (groceries). Due to state guidelines that dictate the details of levying the tax, it will not go into effect until July.

City Recorder Chad Edwards said though he can’t as yet predict how much revenue will be raised by the tax, but similar sized cities have collected $150,000 a year. He funds generated will go a long way toward needed infrastructure repairs and improvements as well as economic development, depending how the finance committee wants to allocate the funds.

Mayor Bill Rice added, “Anybody who looks around town seens we need to do something.”

Edwards said cities large and small have enacted sales taxes across the state. Parkersburg and Vienna have had such a tax for years.He said the city’s insurance and utilities costs have increased dramatically between 2014 and 2016. Edwards said improvements

In other news, council discussed adjusting the speed limit along W.Va. Route 2 in the south end of town. Posted speed limit signs indicate 35 mph but research provided by Chuck Heinlein states that the speed limit should be 25 mph. Heinlein said council never changed the speed limit to 35 mph, so it should be 25 mph a move that complies with state law. City Hall will be making inquiries about what the speed limit should be with W.Va. Division of Highways.

And, council approved $200 Christmas bonuses for 17-full-time employees and $100 bonuses for part-time employees.

Also, Sistersville Ferry will be undergoing an annual inspection in Bellaire, Ohio, by the U.S. Coast Guard in the days ahead, according to Barbara Gage, chairwoman of the Sistersville Ferry Board.

And, council will advertise for full time water clerk and to allow City Hall to have a college intern position. The internship is unpaid.

Also, council approved plans to pay more than $16,000 to test wells that provide the city’s water supply.

And, Kenna Snoyer of Air Evac spoke of the emergency evacuation service that is available to residents in Tyler County.