POINT PLEASANT — Following the recent announcement by Pleasant Valley Hospital concerning its upcoming discontinuation of obstetric services, as well as a reduction in some staff, Gov. Jim Justice weighed in on the matter as well as the state of rural health care.
“This announcement today from Pleasant Valley Hospital is very unfortunate,” Justice said in a statement. “I have instructed my Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch to remain in contact with Mountain Health leadership and to offer any support that we can during this tough time.”
The statement continued:
“The road that led us to what we have seen in recent months – community hospitals across our state shrinking or closing altogether – started a long time ago. But now it’s our responsibility to look under every rock for solutions.
“Today, I met with many key stakeholders in West Virginia’s healthcare industry to begin the process of forming the Rural Medicine Task Force. This group will be essential as we work together to find ways to stop the closure of our community hospitals.
“This is one of my highest priorities as Governor. No matter where you live, every single West Virginian deserves to have access to quality hospital and emergency care services.”
The prior week, the Associated Press reported the governor’s plans to establish a task force on health care aimed at keeping rural hospitals open.
According to the report from the AP previously publishing by Ohio Valley Publishing, “Over the past year, hospitals have closed in Bluefield, Richwood and Wheeling. Williamson Memorial Hospital filed for bankruptcy in October, and a nonprofit system that operates hospitals in Charleston and South Charleston announced last month it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but would remain open.”
The report also made mention of a hospital in Ashland, Kentucky, near Huntington, West Virginia, that would shut down later this year.
The press release from PVH stated, “To align labor costs with lower volumes and reimbursements, we must reduce 53 full-time equivalents (FTEs) across the organization. The majority of positions will be achieved through not filling 25 currently vacant positions. Savings will also be accomplished through reducing part-time hours, retiring employees, and attrition. Regretfully, 25 employees will be displaced.”
Specifically as it related to the discontinuation of obstetrics services, the PVH press release stated, “After careful analysis and forecasting, PVH will discontinue obstetric services, effective Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. This difficult decision comes in response to the declining number of births at PVH while operating costs have continued to rise. With the increasing median age in Mason and surrounding counties, fewer women are of childbearing age and that trend is projected to further decrease over the coming years. In addition, PVH had to consider that over 75% of expectant mothers in Mason and surrounding areas are choosing to deliver their babies at other area hospitals.”
“We are facing many challenges in the current healthcare environment that affect operations, including lower reimbursements and an increasing number of patients who are underinsured or uninsured,” said Dr. James Lockhart, chairman, PVH Board of Directors. “These decisions are difficult, but by addressing these challenges now, we can not only make improvements in the short-term, but also position the hospital for future growth and success.”
The operational improvement plan also calls for the closure of the neurology practice and several other steps designed to generate funds to build out and strengthen other services, the release from PVH stated.