By JOSELYN KING
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — A bill that could help facilitate the sale of Ohio Valley Medical Center will be signed this morning by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
“This legislation is important because it saves jobs and gives a lifeline to distressed hospitals in West Virginia,” Justice said. “This was too important to let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for the people of West Virginia.
“Political party doesn’t matter to me. I’m so thrilled Sen. Ferns and I could work together on this project.”
Justice has until noon today to veto or sign House Bill 2459.
Prior to adjourning sine die, Senate members had just one item on their agenda Sunday evening: the confirmation of Justice’s executive members. That action came just before 10 p.m. Sunday after negotiations regarding one appointee and the certificate of need bill continued throughout the evening.
At issue was the confirmation of Bill Crouch, acting director of the State Department of Health and Human Resources. An ethics request indicates Crouch still owns 25 percent of his former company, Bill J. Crouch and Associates — a firm largely called upon for consultation services by hospitals seeking certificates of need in the state.
Wheeling Hospital is a client of Bill Crouch and Associates, according to Ferns.
Crouch was instrumental in changes made to House Bill 2459, which as now written would transfer all funding for the State Health Care Authority to the DHHR — giving that agency oversight over certificate of need issues and creating a conflict of interest, he said. But the bill also eliminates the need for some financial and data reporting.
By signing HB 2459, Justice will eliminate the conflict of interest, according to Ferns.
Local legislators had been pushing Justice to sign HB 2459 as Alecto Healthcare Services is seeking a certificate of need from the West Virginia Health Care Authority for Alecto’s intended purchase of OVMC.
The deal is expected to impact the futures of about 1,500 employees.
Ferns, who serves as vice-chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee, said the Senate was holding the confirmation of Justice’s cabinet and concerns about Crouch as leverage over Justice to get HB 2459 signed.
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