By JD LONG
CADIZ – It has been just a little more than three years since Wheeling Hospital (WH) acquired Harrison Community Hospital (HCH) but now the local hospital will be falling under a new agreement, an acquisition that West Virginia University is calling it.
Tony Martinelli, senior administrator and assistant vice president of HCH will be taking over WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale while current Barnesville CEO of that hospital, Dave Phillips, will be taking over at HCH while maintaining his duties in Barnesville as well. CEO of WH, Doug Harrison, will remain in his current position.
“Over the last year and a half West Virginia University health system has entered into a management agreement with Wheeling Hospital, which also includes Harrison (Community) Hospital,” Harrison Said. “So, WVU health system has been managing both Wheeling and Harrison for the past year and a half under a management agreement.”
Harrison said on April 1 WVU will have negotiated the “acquisition” of Harrison, Wheeling and Barnesville hospitals where all three will join WVU’s health system but Harrison emphasized that it is not a purchase of HCH.
“The technical term is we’re entering into a long-term lease agreement with the diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia…” Harrison explained. He continued by stating, at least for Wheeling, “we needed a viable long-term partner” for ensuring success for the future. He said independent hospitals are having trouble staying afloat calling it “difficult” in today’s environment. He said more of the smaller hospitals are joining forces with the larger ones for recruiting in the workforce, as well as financial stability.
Phillips stated on behalf of Barnesville Hospital that they entered into an agreement with WVU Medicine the same time WVU partnered up with the others back in 2017. He also said they had been evaluating strategy concerning their future and echoed Harrison’s thoughts on the difficulty of independent hospitals surviving without being a part of a larger health system. And being a part of a health system allows for “access to resources and information technology and other programming that is available on a much larger scale within a system model.”
As for benefits for HCH, Harrison called Phillips a “top notch CEO” as one of those benefits. He said Phillips understands critical access hospitals and what it takes to run that type of facility. He spoke of WH’s managing of HCH as their first foray into this type of deal but stated it wasn’t that great of a “fit” considering it was across state lines into Ohio.
“It served a need [and] we built a lot of strong relationships with our medical staffs and moving staffing resources between Wheeling and Harrison,” Harrison explained. He said there is now a “strengthening” of the Ohio facilities they are involved with.
“And really kind of focusing in on what it means to provide health care in the state of Ohio for a West Virginia based health care system,” Harrison added. He said what should be seen now is administrative overhead and sharing in physician resources between Barnesville and Harrison, as well.
“I think this will be a wonderful move on behalf of the system but also for Harrison and Barnesville,” he stated. Regarding emergency services Phillips said there will be no differences or reduction in services provided at Harrison due to the lease agreement.
“Barnesville and Harrison will continue to work very closely with Wheeling as we’ll all be under the WVU Health System umbrella,” he said. “They won’t see any changes that will be reduction in services and what they will see as we go forward, is looking to bring more services to Harrison Community Hospital.”
Harrison said this agreement would continue to see HCH strengthened and an asset to the surrounding community. He noted the tiered structure it is set up to be with Barnesville and HCH and larger, or more complicated cases being handed off to WH and from there, to Ruby Memorial in Morgantown if need be.
“So it keeps it within a system functionality, which has been proven…if you keep patients within a system structure, it starts to reduce the cost of care [and] quality outcomes improve because you get a more coordinated care approach. So that’s the long term goal with what we’re setting up here,” Harrison explained.
Phillips wanted to emphasize that, though some may be concerned that the agreement is not “Ohio based,” he noted that, “care and medical care doesn’t happen inside state lines.” The important thing is partnering with the best resources and level of care that certain entities can provide.