Thursday, January 07, 2010 - Valley Health's Acquisition of War Memorial Hospital Approved in WV
Valley Health’s proposal to acquire the assets of War Memorial Hospital from Morgan County, and to build a long-awaited $30 million replacement hospital in Berkeley Springs, was approved on Tuesday by the West Virginia Health Care Authority (HCA).

The Certificate of Need was submitted to the HCA in April 2009. The decision, due last August, was delayed when a notice of opposition was filed by City Hospital and Jefferson Memorial Hospital. This action postponed a final ruling and resulted in a public hearing held in October.

“We never doubted the merits of this project,” said Mark Merrill, president and CEO of Valley Health in Winchester, Virginia. “We are pleased that the Health Care Authority agrees with our assessment of the need and the appropriateness of our plans.” Merrill noted that the support the project received from the community was influential. “I can’t remember seeing a community pull together so strongly. The voices coming from Morgan County were consistently supportive. They sent hundreds of letters to West Virginia officials to urge approval.”
“We believed in Valley Health’s proposal, the community believed in it, and now we know the HCA believes in it too,” said Neil McLaughlin, president of War Memorial Hospital and Berkeley Springs native. “The opportunity this creates for Morgan County and its residents is profound.

“War Memorial Hospital has been an important community asset for 63 years, but we all knew the building had seen better days,” said McLaughlin. “Valley Health understands the value of a first-rate healthcare facility in Berkeley Springs, and is committed to continuing the successes of the past and expanding upon them well into the future.”

Morgan County Commissioners requested proposals to acquire the assets of the facility in July of 2008. Valley Health submitted the only bid. When asked by The Morgan Messenger last October about the HCA’s deliberations on Valley Health’s proposal, WVUHS President J. Thomas Jones said, “If the decision goes the other way, we’ll get on with life.”
Todd Way, Valley Health senior vice president and West Virginia native, looks forward to finalizing the legal proceedings. “During the 20 years that we have managed the hospital, we have come to know the community well,” said Way. “The staff is excellent, but they struggle to work efficiently in an outdated building. Everyone – doctors, patients and staff – will benefit from the new hospital.”

Valley Health officials believe they can break ground on the project by early summer 2010. In addition to a commitment to build a replacement hospital at an estimated cost of $30 million, Valley Health’s proposal also includes a cash sum at closing and lease payments on the current hospital buildings until a new hospital is constructed.

On July 6, Valley Health broke ground on a 65,000 square foot replacement hospital in Romney. The new facility, similar to what is proposed for Berkeley Springs, will be completed in 2011. “Morgan County has watched our progress with Hampshire Memorial’s new hospital,” said Way. “The decision by the HCA brings us one step closer to similar excitement in Berkeley Springs.”

Valley Health has managed War Memorial Hospital for Morgan County since 1989. The hospital employs 166 full- and part-time employees.

Valley Health, a non-profit health system with 500 physicians and 5,000 employees, of which approximately 1,400 live in West Virginia, operates Winchester Medical Center, Warren Memorial Hospital, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital and Page Memorial Hospital in Virginia, and Hampshire Memorial Hospital in Romney, West Virginia.

Contact:  Tom Urtz (540) 536-5150 - Valley Health or Lyn Goodwin (304) 258-6500 - War Memorial