Latest News, WVPA Sharing

New legislation targets Hopemont Hospital for permanent closure, Smith: ‘I’m not one for a filibuster, but I’m going to fight this bill with everything I have’


The Preston County News & Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — “It was a surprise to me,” Del. Tony Lewis, R-Preston, said in reference to the introduction of House Bill 3102 out of the Health and Human Resources Committee that calls for selling Hopemont Hospital in Terra Alta.

The bill is being sponsored by Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer. Described as “relating to selling of Hopemont Hospital,” the bill is currently in the House Finance Committee.

“I know they (the government) are cutting stuff, but we are here fighting to keep Hopemont open,” Lewis added. “I am trying to get support to keep the facility open.”

Del. Terri Funk Sypolt, R-Preston, told the Preston County News & Journal she was shocked.

“I am very disappointed they introduced the bill,” Funk Sypolt said. “We are giving everything we have to keep the facility open.”

Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, said the way the legislation was introduced Tuesday was “shady.”

“The bill was introduced by the chairman and was originated out of the committee,” Smith said. “That is permitted, but no one came to any of the representatives from the Preston County area to talk to them about it and see what we thought.

“I’m not one for a filibuster, but I’m going to fight this bill with everything I have,” Smith said. “Hopemont seems to have been singled out. I don’t know what the reasoning is.”

Both delegates said they have been talking with other institutions to see if they would potentially partner with Hopemont Hospital in order to save it.

“We met with West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee at the end of February,” Funk Sypolt said. “He seemed receptive to the idea of a partnership or some type of working relationship with Hopemont Hospital.

“He has sent a team to look at the facility, and I am assuming we may hear something from him in the next couple of weeks,” Funk Sypolt continued.

Preston County Commissioner Dave Price said he has spoken with employees at Hopemont Hospital.

“I think it is better than it was because the administration is down with the patients and working with the employees,” Price said. “It is becoming a better atmosphere.”

The future of Hopemont Hospital has been in question since last year’s legislative session.

More recently, however, several members of the Senate introduced SB201, which, if passed would permit the hiring of a consultant to consider the “sale, lease and renovation of certain state-owned health-care facilities.”

Along with Hopemont near Terra Alta, the other health-care facilities are Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital, William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital, John Manchin Sr. Health Center and Lakin Hospital.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources and then to the Committee on Finance for consideration, and has not moved out of committee.

“I was leaning towards the Senate Bill that calls for an independent study of Hopemont Hospital,” Smith said. “That would have given us an idea of what types of problems we had to deal with there.”

Lewis said there are 130 employees at the facility, and its clsoure would have a snowball affect on the economy.

“Not only would you have 130 people out of work, many people stop at the Terra Alta Shop ’N Save on their way home from work,” Lewis said. “It would be a huge loss to the area.”

The newly proposed legislation directs the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to divest the land, facilities, buildings, etc., and directs the DHHR to ensure all patients are transferred to area facilities. It also directs DHHR to sell any vacant beds by July 1.

“We are really hoping something comes through,” Funk Sypolt said.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” Lewis said. “We are really trying hard to make it work. Keeping Hopemont Hospital open is important to all of us.”

“I will do what I can to derail this bill,” Smith said.

See more from The Preston County News & Journal

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address