House bill aiming to shut down aging state facilities could mistakenly spell disaster for Marion County seniors

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:26 PM EST
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FAIRMONT, W.Va (WDTV) - House Bill 2626 aims at closing four long term health facilities in West Virginia. The goal is to mitigate the costs of upgrading these “aging” facilities by discontinuing services.

The bill names four facilities, Hopemont Hospital in Terra Alta, built in 1913. Lakin Hospital in West Columbia, built in 1926. Jackie Withrow Hospital, built in 1927. Lastly, the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center in Fairmont that is mistakenly listed as having been built in 1899.

The confusion comes from the evolution of the building. The state constructed a mining hospital at that site in 1899, but that facility was shut down in 1980, demolished and reconstructed into, what we now know as, the Manchin center.

But the confusion could spell disaster for the families that entrust their loved ones in that medical center.

“Putting my mother in the nursing home was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” said Cathie Metheny.

Two years ago, Cathie was faced with one of the hardest challenges a daughter can face. As her mother struggled with dementia, she made the decision to move her into an assisted living home.

She found herself wary of the homes boasting over 100 beds. Cathie inspected every center in Marion County, observing the sights, the staff and the smells. She settled on the Manchin facility.

“I feel so fortunate that my mother is there. They take such good care of my mother,” Cathie said.

If the facility shuts down, she will need to begin her search again. This time, facing homes that are filled to capacity.

“There are no beds in Marion County. Where do they think these people are going to go? Cause there are no beds,” Cathie said.

But concerns over the livelihood of the facility extend past its residents and staff.

“We buy 225 meals from them on a daily basis to feed our seniors,” said Debbie Harvey, Executive Director of Marion County Senior Citizens Inc.

The Manchin center has become central to feeding the senior community throughout Marion County. Both Meals on Wheels and Senior Citizens Inc. depend on the health center’s kitchen to prepare hundreds of meals daily that meet nutritional requirements.

“I know that some of the seniors that we serve. Their home delivered meal program. Even some that come and do carryout. It could be the only meal that they have that day,” Harvey said.

Senior Citizens Inc. began depending on the center for meals after the Fairmont Regional Medical Center closed. Harvey says if they lose the Manchin kitchen, they will be left scrambling trying to find a facility that can meet both the volume and nutritional demands.

House Bill 2626 is still early in its trip through the legislative process. The bill has to be read to the House Finance Committee two more times before it makes it to the floor. Within a day of the bill being introduced, Delegates Guy Ward, Andy Garcia, Phil Mallow and Senator Mike Caputo toured the facility.

Delegates Garcia, Mallow and I visited the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center today. House Bill 2626 calls for...

Posted by Guy Ward on Saturday, February 20, 2021

“I’ve got an amendment to this bill that I am going to introduce on the House floor to remove the John Manchin Health Care Center from this bill,” Del. Ward said.

He says the next reading of the bill will likely come on Friday, at which point he plans to introduce the amendment.

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