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Valley Health and the Morgan County Commission this morning finalized the transfer of ownership of War Memorial Hospital to Valley Health effective 12:01 a.m. on April 1.
Valley Health can now move forward with plans to build a $30 million replacement facility for the 63-year-old Berkeley Springs, W.Va. hospital.
During the meeting, Brenda Hutchinson, president of the Morgan County Commission, accepted payment of $1.5 million from Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill and Senior Vice President Todd Way, and the three reviewed and signed numerous closing documents and lease agreements for the current hospital properties. Other officials in attendance were: Neil McLaughlin, president of War Memorial Hospital; Bill Locke, Chairman, War Memorial Hospital Board of Directors; Tommy Swaim, Morgan County commissioner; and Richard Gay, attorney for the Morgan County Commission.
Valley Health has managed War Memorial Hospital for Morgan County since 1989. The West Virginia HCA approved the acquisition and Certificate of Need (CON) for a replacement hospital in January 2010.
“It’s certainly been a challenge,” said WMH Board Chairman Bill Locke, reflecting on the events leading up to the signing. “It’s been nearly seven years since the Board sat in our conference room and heard about alternatives for our aging physical plant. There were a plethora of possibilities, but this was the only one that made any sense. Our new hospital will be a quantum leap forward, and will offer an opportunity for our staff to work in a modern facility and serve the community more efficiently.”
“We are very thankful to the Morgan County Commission, local legislators and the citizens of Morgan County. We would not have been successful if we had not received overwhelming support from the local community,” said Valley Health’s Todd Way.
Officials plan to break ground on the new hospital June 4. “Beginning construction of our new facilities not only marks the infusion of dollars into the community for the materials and workers that will be erecting the building, but it also initiates a new era of healthcare delivery with modern facilities for well into the future,” said Neil McLaughlin, president of War Memorial Hospital.
“We welcome this new phase of our 20-year affiliation with War Memorial Hospital, and look forward to an even brighter future for health care in Morgan County,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Merrill.
Valley Health will also make lease payments on the current hospital buildings until the new hospital is constructed, and forgive a loan for the 80.5 acres of land where the new facility will be built, along the west side of Fairview Drive approximately one mile from the current hospital. Morgan County will retain five acres of the land for a future building site for a new county health department and senior center.
“We’ve been working toward this goal since I’ve been on the Commission. It’s been a long process, but it’s a great conclusion,” said Brenda Hutchinson, president of the Morgan County Commission. “The money from this sale will be a tremendous economic boost for Morgan County, and the new hospital will be a tremendous asset for the future of healthcare in Morgan County.”
War Memorial employs 166 full- and part-time employees. It is the 6th hospital, and the second in West Virginia, to join
the Winchester, Virginia-based Valley Health. The nonprofit health system has nearly 500 physicians and over 5,000 employees, one-third of whom live in West Virginia.