OVMC closing photo

Employees filter out of East Ohio Regional Hospital and discuss their impending layoffs after a meeting. EORH and Ohio Valley Medical Center announced they will close within 60 to 90 days.

For the Observer-Reporter

WHEELING, W.Va. – Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry will close in two to three months, with President and CEO Daniel C. Dunmyer citing a $37 million loss over two years and the inability to secure a strategic partner as reasons for beginning the closure process.

“OVMC and EORH will immediately begin working with federal, state and local agencies to develop a definitive timeline for the closure of both facilities,” Dunmyer states in a release issued Wednesday evening. “The closure process for facilities like OVMC and EORH typically takes 60 to 90 days and OVMC and EORH will share a definitive timeline with all interested parties in the coming days.”

Dunmyer also placed part of the blame on alleged conduct by Wheeling Hospital that is outlined in a pending court case. According to Dunmyer, the decision to begin the closure process was based on, among other things, the following factors:

  • OVMC, EORH, and their physician practices have lost more than $37 million over the past two years as they struggled to overcome declining volumes, declining reimbursement, and the substantial harm caused by the conduct alleged by the government in United States of America ex. rel. Louis Longo v. Wheeling Hospital Inc., R&V Associates LTD., and Ronald L. Violi, United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Case No. 5:19-cv-00192-JPB.
  • OVMC and EORH have been unable to compete with Wheeling Hospital and its business practices including, but not limited to, those alleged in United States of America ex. rel. Louis Longo v. Wheeling Hospital, Inc., R & V Associates, LTD., and Ronald L. Violi, United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Case No. 5:19-cv-00192-JPB.
  • OVMC requires substantial improvements to its physical plant and the continued losses at OVMC and EORH do not leave funds available to complete such improvements.
  • Despite “exhaustive efforts” to identify a strategic partner or buyer for OVMC and/or EORH, which included discussions with more than 15 different national, regional, and local healthcare systems or providers, OVMC and EORH have been unable to locate a strategic partner or buyer for one or both of the facilities.

“As they begin the closure process, OVMC and EORH will also continue their efforts to identify opportunities, alternatives, and options for both facilities,” Dunmyer states. “OVMC and EORH will also work closely with their employees, physicians, and patients as well as community leaders to ensure an orderly closure process for both facilities.”

Wheeling Hospital spokeswoman Thea Gompers said that hospital was declining to comment on Wednesday.

Employees at OVMC and EORH also learned Wednesday that the hospitals will close in 60-90 days. The closures will put about 1,200 employees out of jobs.

At each hospital, employees were called to a 5:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting. The OVMC session was held in the hospital’s cafeteria and was closed to the public and media. Employees at EORH met in the Wilson Room.

Within 10 minutes, they exited both rooms with long faces. Multiple employees confirmed they had just been given a written notice that the hospitals will be closing.

Some sobbed while others were seen embracing. A few talked among themselves and couldn’t contain their anger.

“They did this to themselves,” one employee in Wheeling was heard saying.

No OVMC employees would speak on the record.

At EORH, employees left the building in droves, most using their cellphones to make sad calls.

“It’s just a sad day,” said one 10-year employee, who declined to give her name. “This is our family. We know each other’s kids, the goings-on, the good, the bad. … They threw us out like dirty diapers.”

One EORH employee, Donna Cika, said there had been rumors of one facility closing, but the news that it would be both came as a total shock.

“I was expecting East Ohio to still stay open, because the closest hospital on this side of the river is Trinity (Health Systems), so I figured we’d at least have a hospital here,” Cika said. “It’s a tear-jerker.”

Trinity Health Systems in Steubenville is one of two nearby hospitals for Belmont County residents, along with Barnesville Hospital.

“We are a community hospital,” EORH employee Brenda Nelson said. “It’s more like a family hospital here. … It’s very devastating. I didn’t expect this.”

Nelson said the employees were not permitted to ask questions at the brief meeting, but they are invited to attend a series of informational seminars today for further information. Employees will be able to attend meetings at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at OVMC, and at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at EORH. An additional meeting is set for 6:30 a.m. Friday at EORH.

The hospitals may remain open if a buyer for the facilities is found before the projected Oct. 7 closure, however no offers had been extended as of Wednesday, according to a Q&A handout given to employees.

Employees’ accrued paid time off will be paid out at their termination, unemployment compensation will be available as normal. However, the hospitals “(do) not have the funds to afford a severance program,” and insurance coverage will persist until the end of the month of an employee’s termination.

Alecto Healthcare Services has owned Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital since June 2017, when the company acquired the hospitals from Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corp. during a time of serious financial strain. At the time of the transaction, Alecto committed to keep both hospitals open despite the significant financial and operational issues associated with the prior management of the facilities.

In March, 70 employees between the two hospitals were suddenly laid off, with officials again citing financial matters.

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