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Senate President says WVSOM privatization a dead issue

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Senate President Mitch Carmichael said he has no interest in running a bill that would transfer the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine to a not-for-profit entity.

Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, was the lead sponsor of SB 184, which was introduced the first day of the 83rd Legislature. The bill would have transferred the school to a not-for-profit corporation on July 1, 2018.

It said the transfer would benefit the institution by providing greater flexibility and freedom in providing medical education. Blair said the school would flourish as a not-for-profit entity and would have the potential of saving the state $5 million to $7 million.

Carmichael said Thursday, “It’s dead. I’m not running that bill. The school has decided it would prefer to not be privatized. I am adhering to their wishes.”

WVSOM President Michael Adelman also said the issue is dead.

“It’s a dead issue,” Adelman said. “We are looking forward to what we can do to help the school. Gov. Justice came out and recognized what an asset we are for the state and not to privatize the school and we absolutely appreciate those comments and support his efforts.”

Sen. Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier, expressed his concerns the day the bill was introduced. He said although anything is possible until the end of crossover day, he doesn’t see a big push in the Senate to transfer the school.

“The governor said he didn’t want it happening and I think the Senate is probably listening to the governor’s request on that,” Miller said Thursday. “WVSOM doesn’t want it and the public doesn’t want it. The general feeling here is that members don’t want it.”

However, Blair said he thinks it’s possible the bill could be revived down the road.

“The possibility of reviving the bill does exist because of budget constraints; however, all bills are amendable which allows better ideas to be incorporated,” he said.

Last week, Justice voiced his opposition in a press release, saying it “makes absolutely no sense to divest yourself of such a strong asset.”

“At a time when West Virginians need access to quality health care, especially in our most rural areas, we simply can’t afford to even entertain the thought of giving up WVSOM,” Justice said in that release.

Blair said he was disappointed with Justice’s press release on the issue. Blair said his goal was to allow the institution to flourish independently of the state.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the governor did a press release stating that he would veto the bill even though it had never been considered in committee,” Blair said. “I’m concerned that the current budget shortfall will further decrease funding to the school and/or be consolidated with another school.”

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