WEST COLUMBIA — A proposed bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates that would’ve basically sold some state-run health care facilities, including Lakin Hospital, has been amended.
House Bill 4352 was initially presented as directing the secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to formulate a plan to sell Lakin Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital, John Manchin Sr. Health Center and Hopemont Hospital. Once the plan was completed and deemed feasible by the secretary, the Committee on Government and Finance would approve or deny the plan. This was going to happen quickly (at least in the definition of government) with the plan submitted by Nov. 30 and if approved, facilities sold by July 1, 2017.
According to Delegates Jim Butler, R-Gallipolis Ferry, 14th District; Scott Cadle, R-Letart, 13th District; and Mike Ihle, R-Ravenswood, 13th District, each spoke with members of the committee to stop the bill after speaking to constituents in Mason County.
“They (committee members) chose to amend the study, which basically does the same thing (stops the bill),” Butler said.
Butler said he was told the bill was introduced because some thought a few state institutions were not operating efficiently, though no one he was aware of suggested that about Lakin in particular.
“Delegate Cadle, Ihle, nor I are on the committee that this bill was assigned to,” Butler said. “When we became aware of it, we spoke with people who work at Lakin. We attended the public hearing on the issue and spoke with committee members about the concerns of our constituents. Delegates who represented the districts where the other state properties are located did the same, I am sure. As a result, the bill was made into a study by way of amendment.”
This study is still due Nov. 30, according to the amendment. However, the amendment also says the plan will include, but is not be limited to, options concerning selling, renovating or leasing Lakin Hospital, Hopemont Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital and John Manchin Sr. Health Center.
In a statement from Butler on behalf of himself, Cadle and Ihle, he said: “We are very much aware of the good that the Lakin Hospital does for our community, including the care that they provide for their patients, some who would have a very difficult time finding care in a private facility. We understand and are very concerned about the employees’ jobs and retirement. We will keep a close eye on the results of the study and carefully consider the intent of the bill, which was to ensure that taxpayer’s money is used wisely. It is our job to look out for the best interests of the patients and the staff, as well as the overall benefit to our county.”
HB 4352 is currently resting with the House Finance Committee for review.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.