This is a developing story and will be updated.
In an internal memo to employees, Fairmont Regional Medical Center announced today, Feb. 18, it will be closing citing financial difficulties.
According to a copy of the memo obtained by West Virginia Public Broadcasting via Facebook, the hospital said efforts to find a buyer or other sources of financial support were unsuccessful. Hospital CEO Robert Adcock wrote the decision to close the hospital was made “only after all other reasonable options” were considered and explored.
Fairmont Regional is the fourth hospital in the region to close in recent months. Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Medical Center in the Northern Panhandle region announced closures in late summer 2019, and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in eastern Kentucky announced it was closing last month.
Following the announcement, both Mon Health and WVU Medicine issued statements, expressing concern and pointing to local services they offer for the Fairmont/Marion County community.
In an emailed statement a West Virginia University Health System spokesperson said:
“We’re aware of the situation and are 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. 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.”
Mon Health’s President and CEO David Goldberg issued this 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.”
Several House Delegates also gave remarks expressing frustration and sadness following the announcement. Marion County Del. Linda Longstretch, a Democrat, called on the governor to step in.
“We’re just disheartened by this and we know our employees are just devastated -- their families what are they going to do?” she said. “In 60 days what are they going to do?”
The closure will affect about 600 employees.
Unpacking Rural Hospital Closure Trends
Over the past 15 years, 166 rural hospitals have closed in the United States, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. And in West Virginia, nearly 40 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closure. In this article from 2019, we talk at length with several hospital CEOs about why that is.
Some of the strain has to do with federal healthcare policies. The Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration has vowed to repeal, has allowed for vital sources of income for rural hospitals. If the ACA is repealed or significantly changed, more rural hospitals might be at risk of closure.
But despite the tenuous footing that many rural hospitals are on, rural hospital ER visits are on the rise.
And while some hospitals do turn to affiliation to keep doors open, the bigger hospitals like WVU Health, Marshall Health, Mon General and Charleston Area Medical Center have to be careful with their own bottom lines. In conversations with various CEOs, they’ve indicated that they are approached regularly by smaller, struggling facilities and cannot take on everyone who wants to join their system. Experts said the trend indicates rural hospital closures will continue to impact communities across the state, and can have major economic implications. The repercussions can be huge and can spell the beginning of the end for small rural towns for whom the hospital is the largest employer, suggesting solutions may need to be addressed not on a hospital by hospital basis but on how we approach healthcare as a system.
Experts said the trend indicates rural hospital closures will continue to impact communities across the state, and can have major economic implications. The repercussions can be huge and can spell the beginning of the end for small rural towns for whom the hospital is the largest employer, suggesting solutions may need to be addressed not on a hospital by hospital basis but on how we approach healthcare as a system.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.