UPDATE: Fairmont Regional closes Thursday, 30 days after initial notice given to employees
Employees with Fairmont Regional Medical Center were told the hospital will shut down at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"Everyone just wanted to say goodbye and tell each other that we support each other no matter where we're going," employee Christina Menendez said.
In hopes to keep the hospital open, Senator Joe Manchin reached out to hospital officials asking for the provider to stay open longer due to COVID-19
"Closing down any health care provider in the midst of a pandemic makes no sense at all," says Sen. Manchin. "I said can you give us at least until this weekend to see if we can work something out."
Menendez says the hospital used to get an overflow of patients from other hospitals. Now with the shut down, she is concerned for patients health.
"Besides our pandemic of coronavirus, we have this drug epidemic right now that we can't control," Menendez said.
Menendez says a lot of history has been made at the hospital. She says with the closing, she hopes the community will grow stronger from the closure.
"I love the whole brotherhood, sisterhood and that's what we had here at our hospital. We had this big huge family that had each others backs and I just want to see our community grow closer because of it."
Fairmont Regional Medical Center is set to close Thursday and is no longer admitting patients.
Del. Michael Angelucci (D-Marion) said he learned the emergency department will cease operations at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Thursday marks 30 days since employees learned the hospital will close. They were told they would have 60 days until the doors shut on their hospital.
Angelucci, who is also the administrator for the Marion County Rescue Squad, said all ambulance patients will be taken to other facilities after 12 p.m. on Thursday. Angelucci said he spoke with Fairmont Regional's CEO Tuesday who informed him of the impending closure.
"These are troubling times, but I can assure you the employees of MCRS will continue to be dedicated to our communities," Angelucci wrote on Facebook. "Please keep the employees and their families of FRMC in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
Angelucci previously called on West Virginia's attorney general to investigate the business practices of Alecto Healthcare, the hospital's parent company.
He and other Marion County representatives have repeatedly voiced frustrations with the lack of communication from Alecto representatives. In a separate post, Angelucci praised the continued work of nurses and other hospital employees.
"These are the dedicated nurses and staff that have saved so many lives, dedicated themselves to our community hospital, and didn’t run away when Alecto announced the closure," Angelucci wrote. . They stayed to help provide medical care. They are heroes in my eyes. They have given so much to our community.
"Alecto and Lex Reddy needs to realize their actions affect lives. They affect families. Corporate America sucks."
Fairmont Regional Medical Center will close in the coming days, weeks short of its original 60-day notice issued last month, executives with the hospital's parent company told leaders Monday.
Del. Michael Angelucci (D-Marion), who is also the administrator of the Marion County Rescue Squad, received a letter Monday detailing plans by Alecto Healthcare Services executives to close completely.
The letter follows recent announcements by Mon Health and WVU Medicine to expand their services into Marion County.
The letter, from Alecto Executive Vice President Michael Sarraro, said FRMC will "complete the winddown of patient care operations" and transfer patients to other facilities. FRMC will also stop admitting patients over the next several days and limiting services offered at the hospital, Sarraro said.
WVU Medicine last week announced plans to build a new hospital adjacent to its outpatient clinic in Fairmont over the next two years. WVU Medicine officials also said they will operate an emergency department and acute beds at the current hospital.
The governor and WVU Medicine officials said there will be shut down in services during the transition, ultimately prompting Alecto to make the decision to shut down in the coming days, according to Sarraro's letter.
Angelucci wasn't given an exact timeline for when the hospital will close, but said, according to Alecto, "over the next 48 hours, they will stop admitting patients and by the end of the week, be ceasing operations."
The roughly 600 employees at the hospital learned of its imminent closure on February 18 and were given a 60-day notice. The 60-day mark isn't until April 18; It's been 27 days since the initial announcement.
"To my friends at FRMC: our MCRS staff stands with you and we certainly extend our heartfelt sympathy for what Alecto has done to you and to our community," Angelucci said in a Facebook post about the letter.
There were scenes of tears and cheers Thursday inside Fairmont Regional Medical Center.
It was an emotional day for employees, who are still coming to grips with the news their hospital is set to close, like Army veteran and nurse aid Terry McGlone.
"To see it just go away, it hurts my heart so bad," McGlone said. "I got out of the service and this is the only civilian job I've known. 25 years I've dedicated duty."
The job was supposed to be temporary when he started there in 1994.
Nearly 26 years later, he was blindsided when he got a phone call from a friend.
"I was in radiology getting ready to have an MRI," McGlone said. "She called and said we're closing. I was amazed. We never saw it coming. A couple of weeks back, they said don't worry, this place isn't closing. Nobody knew about it. Nobody. The doctors didn't even know about it."
Nursing Assistants Shelly Postlethwait and Christina Menendez were also caught off guard.
"I woke up after working a 16-hour shift to a bunch of text messages from my family and on Facebook," Menendez said. "We had no heads up."
They stood with other employees on the edge of the hallway united as local elected officials, community leaders, and the Governor arrived at the hospital for a closed-door meeting.
The concerns they want them to hear aren't about their futures, rather than that of their patients.
"We're here for our patients," Menendez said. "We can all find other jobs. But our patients and community need us."
Postlethwait said the closure of the hospital will cost lives.
"We know their names," Postlethwait said. "They know our names. When they come here, they revisit us. It's like they're coming home to a family. People are going to die. The opioid crisis is going to get bad. It's going to get worse. People are going to have no place to go. We kept them going. We gave them hope.
Among the patients they treat here every day is 8-year-old Tyler Watkins. He came here for his appendix. For the stakeholders in that meeting room, he had one message.
"This place is going to stay open," Watkins said.
The United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties compiled a list of resources available for employees, including job fairs and emergency hotline numbers: https://www.unitedwaymtc.org/frmc
As the potential final chapter is written in the more than 100-year history book for Fairmont's hospital, employees are left to figure out what happens next.
In addition to a letter they received Tuesday informing them of the hospital's intentions to close, they also received a list of questions and answers regarding the facility's closure process.
One of those questions: Am I guaranteed a job through the date of closure? The answer: not necessarily.
"How do you plan your future when you lose your job?" said County Commissioner Randy Elliot. "How do you face the reality of not having a paycheck anymore?"
They were given 60 days notice of the closure, though that deadline could, in reality, be sooner or later than 60 days, elected officials believe.
As employees brace for the fallout, local organizations like the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties prepare to host job and resource fairs. In the meantime, they refer employees to their free 211 emergency hotline.
"We can help them figure out what assistance they might need, who they can reach out to, who they can contact and what the next steps might be for them," Community Development Director Emily Swain said.
The Health Department administrator also prepares for the next steps.
Lloyd White said his clinic can take on some of the roles the hospital played in the healthcare community. But if the hospital closes as expected, the consequences he says will be dire.
"We simply can't allow the hospital to close," White said. "There's too much at stake. We'll certainly see an increase in mobility and mortality rates if we don't have a hospital."
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) isn't optimistic about the possibility the hospital stays open after fighting through the same process last year with other hospitals owned by Fairmont Regional's parent company Alecto Healthcare Services.
"Don't take this as a false warning," McKinley said. "I would take this as serious. They are going to close that. In the meantime, how do we take care of the patients? What's our next step?"
McKinley was involved in similar discussions with healthcare officials and elected officials in August 2019 when Alecto announced intentions to close Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio.
Those two hospitals posted losses of $37 million over the past two years. Fairmont Regional lost $19 million over the last three years.
"They're serious. They're going to shut it down," McKinley said. "I would take this as serious. They are going to close that. In the meantime, how do we take care of the patients? What's our next step?"
McKinley said his staff had indications as early as last fall that the decision would eventually be made to close Fairmont Regional. He said his staff has been in talks with Mon Health, WVU Medicine and the governor's office to see what they can do to help patients and employees, all while small and rural hospitals across the country struggle to stay afloat.
"What we're trying to figure out in Washington is how we can help out some of these smaller hospitals so they can survive and people of West Virginia get quality healthcare that's accessible," McKinley said.
The governor and West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso are expected to meet with Fairmont Regional leadership Thursday. Mon Health and WVU Medicine executives said they're closely monitoring the situation to see how they can help.
Rumors have circulated for years that Fairmont Regional Medical Center was destined to permanently close.
That speculation ran rampant last September when 25 employees were unexpectedly laid off, weeks after the hospital's parent company closed two other hospitals in the region.
But after sitting through multiple meetings with Alecto Healthcare Services administrators, leaders in Marion County were under the impression the possibility of losing their hospital would stay in the rumor mill.
Tuesday, the rumor mill produced reality and blindsided city, county and state leaders.
"Our biggest fear came true," Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) told 5 News. "It's a sad day for Marion County."
Caputo was among other elected officials who met with California-based Alecto administrators, alongside other delegates, senators, county commissioners, the governor and administrators with WVU Medicine and Mon Health.
As recently as three weeks ago, Delegate Michael Angelucci (D-Marion) met with Alecto's CEO.
"He assured me the hospital was not closing and they were looking for partnerships with other medical facilities and companies in the area," Angelucci said.
Then, communication stopped.
"Usually no news is good news," Caputo said.
The news surfaced Tuesday when employees received letters from Fairmont Regional Medical Center CEO Bob Adcock informing them of the company's plans to wind down operations.
"The decision to close the hospital was made only after all other reasonable options were considered and explored," Adcock said in the letter.
Employees found out before elected officials.
Even Angelucci, who serves on the hospital's board of directors, was caught off guard.
"I found out the same way the employees found out," Angelucci said. "I find that absolutely shameful and I think that speaks to the corruptness of this company."
Angelucci said as recently as their last full meeting, Alecto executives proposed the possibility of making the hospital a non-profit, allow community members to create a board of directors.
He had no indications this was an immediate possibility.
"This is what they do with their hospitals," Angelucci said. "At some point, I'd like to see our attorney general look into these hospitals and start investigating them. People of West Virginia are getting hurt. We need to start putting West Virginians first."
Fairmont mayor Brad Merrifield and multiple Marion County commissioners told 5 News they didn't receive advance notice of the closure that will result in roughly 600 people losing their jobs.
Marion County Commissioner Randy Elliot used to serve on the board of directors. He echoed Angelucci's feelings that Alecto administrators had every intention on keeping the hospital open.
A hospital spokesperson told 5 News Fairmont Regional lost $19 million over the last three years.
He also said additional challenges led to the decision to permanently close, including increased competition from larger healthcare systems, problems recruiting physicians, and increased operating costs, among other explanations.
"This plan is not FRMC’s preferred course of action," the spokesperson said. "The unfortunate reality is that this is happening everywhere and community-based hospitals like FRMC are being hit the hardest.
Marion County delegates asked for an emergency meeting with the governor after learning the news early Tuesday. As of 5:30 Tuesday night, they didn't get a response.
Governor Justice late Tuesday night released a statement after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Roman Preziosi (D-Marion).
“Fairmont Regional Medical Center is a vital lifeline to our people in the Fairmont community and those across Marion County," Justice said in a statement. "My administration has been studying various options over the past several months and meeting with delegates, senators, and other community leaders to try to find a workable solution.”
The governor and Prezioso are set to meet with hospital leadership in Fairmont on Thursday.
Among other concerns, Angelucci is worried about how the announcement will impact the Marion County Rescue Squad, where he's the chief of operations.
It's possible the rescue squad will have to add staff to handle increased drive times to other regional hospitals.
But his ultimate fear is losing the hospital will be the difference between life and death for people in need of life-saving treatment.
"This is going to be catastrophic for the people of Marion County," Angelucci said. "You're looking at adding 30-45 minutes or an hour of additional transport time for people having an emergency. If Fairmont Regional would close, this will cause deaths. People will die because of the extended transport times."
Delegates Mike Caputo (D-Marion), Linda Longstreth (D-Marion) and Michael Angelucci (D-Marion) expressed their surprise and anger about Fairmont Regional Medical Center closing on the House Floor Tuesday.
Employees learned Tuesday that FRMC will close permanently.
"It's outrageous," Caputo said. "The employees were sent a letter that said to expect another letter with more information and an FAQ sheet that said they were not being fired today, but that their position is not guaranteed through the date of closure. The Fairmont Regional Medical Center is a major employer in Marion County, and the people who have worked there for 40 plus years deserve better than an unexpected notice and 60 days to prepare."
Longstreth said they understood there were financial difficulties.
"We were told they were looking into reorganization, working with WVU and finding additional sources of revenue," said Longstreth. "We now just heard that it's gotten to this point, and we're devastated for the citizens of Marion County, who make their living by working at Fairmont Regional Medical Center."
Angelucci said they've been meeting with the Governor, people at Mon Health and WVU Medicine to ensure continued health coverage for Marion County residents.
"As administrator of Marion County's EMS agency, I know that every minute counts in time of emergencies, and I am extremely angry that a solution wasn't found in time to ensure we kept the doors open on this Medical Center that is vital to the lives in our county," Angelucci said.
A press release from FRMC says that the plan was not their preferred course of action.
"The unfortunate reality is that this is happening everywhere and community-based hospitals like FRMC are being hit the hardest," according to the press release. "The Marion County community has always been supportive of the hospital and it has been appreciated. FRMC also greatly appreciates the efforts of all elected officials in working to help it look for solutions."
Fairmont Regional Medical Center will close permanently, employees learned Tuesday.
In a letter obtained by 5 News, was sent from Bob Adcock, CEO of the hospital’s parent company Alecto Healthcare Services, executives made the decision to shut down after “all other reasonable options were considered and explored.”
"You are likely aware of the financial difficulties we have experienced at the hospital," the letter states. "Our plans to reorganize some administrative functions and develop other revenue sources were insufficient to stop the financial losses at FRMC. Our efforts to find a buyer or new source of financing were unsuccessful."
Marion County Commissioner Randy Elliot said county leaders met with Alecto Healthcare executives in recent months to discuss the status of the hospital.
Elliot said commissioners were assured the hospital would be profitable and there were no long-term plans to shut it down.
He said there were no indication a from Alecto executives
Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield said city leaders weren’t given advance notice the hospital would close.
Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo said lawmakers in Charleston were aware of the situation Tuesday morning. He prepared to talk about the closure on the House Floor later in the day.
A West Virginia University Health System spokesperson says they're aware of the situation and monitoring it very closely.
"We’re certainly concerned about the implications this could have for the residents of Marion County, as well as the hospital’s employees," a spokesperson said. "Our commitment is always to ensure West Virginians have access to critical healthcare services, and as a reminder, Marion County residents have quick access to many of our services at our Fairmont Gateway Clinic and Whitehall Medical including Urgent Care."
David Goldberg, president and CEO of Mon Health System, released the following statement:
"We're saddened to hear about the probable closure of Fairmont Regional Medical Center. We have a long history of collaboration with the hospital, clinicians, and citizens of Marion County. Mon Health System will continue to provide care, treatment, and programs to residents through our already established services. We’ve recently announced expansion of Mon Health services as part of our ongoing commitment to the community, adding to our cardiology, primary care, and soon-to-be women's health services. We will continue to monitor the community needs and meet those needs through Mon Health and other collaborations. The most important part of any solution is to ensure that citizens Greater Fairmont and its surrounding communities continue to have real choice in where they get their healthcare.”
25 employees lost their jobs in September in the latest round of layoffs. Alecto executives told 5 News at that time there were no plans to close the hospital.
Those layoffs followed the closure of two other Alecto-owned hospitals.
Executives announced plans to close Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio after posting losses of $37 million over the past two years.
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