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House health committee holds off on selling long-term care hospital


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates committee on health and human resources held off advancing a bill that would authorize the sale of one of the state’s four long-term behavioral health care facilities while they wait to see what DHHR Commissioner Bill Crouch proposes to do with the other three.

Committee members were considering a bill to authorize the sale of Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley. Originally built as a tuberculosis asylum in the 1930s with 655 beds, the facility was converted to long-term elderly care in the 1970s, and also provides care for seniors with behavioral and mental health problems.

Currently the hospital has 137 employees, but only 91 patients. The facility has a $10 million budget but is in need of more than $25 million in repairs, health committee members were told.

Amendments were made to the bill authorizing the sale of the hospital, including one offered by Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, which would have required relocating residents of the facility to other care facilities within 15 miles of Jackie Withrow unless the patient or a caregiver with power of attorney wanted to move them somewhere else.

But Crouch wants to shut down all four of the state’s aging long-term health facilities, build new ones and privatize the care of seniors with mental health issues. He said the facilities are old and expensive.

“We’ve got to get out of these facilities,” he told health committee members. “They’re time bombs.”

Earlier in the week, health committee vice chairwoman Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said she would prefer the health committee deal with each of the long-term care facilities separately, because one or two of the facilities are breaking even financially.

However, Crouch anticipates submitting a bill dealing with all four facilities at once. The health committee adjourned Thursday, Feb. 16 without taking further action on Jackie Withrow Hospital.

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