WVU Medicine prepared to reach out in Fairmont

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Top state, local and healthcare officials are hoping to prevent the complete closure of the Fairmont Regional Medical Center, or at least find ways to fill the gaps.

WVU Medicine president and CEO Dr. Albert Wright was a guest on Talkline and says the announcement wasn’t much of a surprise to those in the industry.

“When we got the news this week it wasn’t a surprise to us, we knew over the last sixty to ninety days Fairmont was trending in this direction,”Wright said,”So, we started putting together our plans of what the community needs and what we can do to help. I do suspect there are some significant things we can do to help.”

Those plans are being developed and could change as the situation unfolds.

“Long term we’re going to have to figure out a solution for, at the very least emergency room services to that population because it’s a ways to go to Bridgeport or Morgantown,”Wright said,”We have the same psychiatric patient issues that we had up in Wheeling, so we have some short term plans on that.”

Wright says in the future more services will be moving into the area.

“We’re going to have to put more physical assets in that market,”Wright said,”Could those at the site of the existing hospital? Absolutely. I think it’s a possibility, but I don’t think it would look like a full reopening of that hospital.”

Wright says because of declining populations and high numbers of chronic diseases in the state larger medical networks in the state will have to find ways to help small healthcare providers.

“It’s going to be important for our large healthcare systems in the state to find ways to work with those small hospitals,”Wright said,”I would not want to try to run a one-off small regional, or a one-off for profit hospital in West Virginia, or any other state, it’s just so complex these days with the economies of scale.”

Dr. George Pink with the Sheps Center for Health Services Research says he has seen smaller facilities be successful through innovation and collaboration.

“Despite the many challenges they face they’re showing a lot of creativity and innovation, coming up with new models of care, new ways of bringing providers together, new ways of sharing resources,”Pink said,”It’s not a given that just because your’re in a rural community your hospital is going to be under financial challenges, but it’s certainly a reality for many communities.”