Want to Buy a Hospital?
Sistersville City Council on Tuesday approved a recommendation from Sistersville General Hospital’s board of directors that the hospital be put out for bid.
“I really think this is the best thing to do,” said Mayor Bill Rice during council’s special meeting Tuesday to discuss the board’s recommendation. “If we are going to keep the hospital operational, someone has to help us.”
Linda Leasure, Sistersville General board chairwoman, said the board’s decision was made under the advice of the hospital’s legal counsel.
“After deliberation, we felt that this option provided for the hospital, the employees and our community as a whole,” she said. “We also agree that this option allows all interested parties to participate in the process and declare their interests in a formal proposal.”
Citing state code, Leasure said if the city wishes to sell the hospital and its assets, it must do so “for a fair and adequate consideration” at a public auction at a place designated by the mayor and council.
Bob Coffield, the hospital’s attorney, said the first step in the sale will be to assess the hospital’s assets and liabilities. He estimated that the process could take two to six months.
Once the public bidding process occurs, he said, it would take longer to close any transaction.
“Can the hospital last that long?” Councilwoman Bonnie Hizer asked.
“Yes, we certainly hope so,” Leasure replied.
After the meeting, Leasure said no one knows what the state of health care will be in six months because of possible changes to state and federal laws in the wake of November’s general election.
West Virginia University Medicine, which recently took over management of Wetzel County Hospital, has indicated an interest in Sistersville General for several months. Wheeling Hospital also has proposed a merger that would leave SGH’s current level of service the same. It had proposed adding additional services and upgrading the hospital’s 100-year-old building.
Coffield said there would need to be transparency in the public bidding process between any interested parties and the hospital regarding any sale. He said any sale agreement may include conditions that would require any buyer to maintain the current facility and emergency room, as well as establish protections for jobs of hospital employees. He said the hospital’s certificate of need and licenses would be required with any sales agreement.
Rice said he would like the hospital and its emergency room to stay open. And it’s not just the hospital that may be affected by any sale, but its urgent care clinics in St. Marys and Middlebourne as well as property around its facility in Sistersville.
Coffield said all this information needs to be gathered before the hospital can be put out for bid.
“One of the goals will be to maintain appropriate health care for the community,” he said.