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House approves measure to allow sale of Hopemont Hospital

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The future of Hopemont Hospital in Preston County remains questionable following a close vote in the House of Delegates.
Lawmakers passed HB 3102 in a 51-49 vote Wednesday afternoon, crossover day, sending the legislation on to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources to sell the long-term care facility, make sure patients are transferred to an area facility and work with employees who could lose their jobs for future employment opportunities or prepare a compensation package if necessary.

“All this bill does is allow that process to begin with all the necessary stakeholders to put a plan together because any rush is the last thing that needs to be done when you’re talking about patients such that are in that home right now,” House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson said prior to the vote.

Hopemont Hospital, in Terra Alta, has close to 60 patients receiving geriatric and psychiatric care. It is licensed to house 98. The facility has 183 employee positions. Of those, 107 positions are filled.

“So, we’re talking about state employees who will probably be laid off with a severance package. Now, they’re all concerned about what’s going to happen. The patients are concerned and the families are concerned,” said Marion County Delegate Linda Longstreth. “I’ve been through this a million times in our committees. And, I’ll keep going through this.”

Longstreth and Upshur County Delegate Bill Hamilton reminded lawmakers Hopemont is just one of a number of similar state operated facilities.

“I know what’s coming down the road. I voted no on Withrow. I’ll vote no on Hopemont. And, when Sharp comes across and Bateman and then the Manchin hospital in Fairmont, I’ll be voting no on those also,” Hamilton promised.

The House Finance Committee passed a bill that would allow the sale of Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley. The state also operates Lakin Hospital in Mason County and the John Manchin, Sr. Health Center in Marion County.

Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo said legislators needed to side with the lawmakers from the districts that would be impacted.

“They know what’s best for their district in this situation. They care about those patients. We should respect that because it’s coming to Marion County. It’s moving around. It’s going to be in Weston. We all need to think about that. It might not be in your back yard today, ladies and gentleman, but it’s going to be in your back yard sooner or later,” Caputo said before the final vote.

Preston County Delegate Terri Sypolt mentioned plans to use the more than 700 acres at Hopemont for a new facility that would serve the current clients and also add a drug abuse treatment facility on the land.

“We still have the people, the residents there at their homes. We could see about the other facility maybe being built there and take our time on it. Let it ride for another year to see if we might pull a plan together,” suggested Sypolt.

Part of HB3102 would require the DHHR to provide complete accounting information for the hospital and its potential sale to the legislature and create a Hopemont Long-Term Care Facility Development Fund.

“I would think this would be a team effort to do what’s best for those patients first then the employees of the area. This is just a vehicle to help improve the area up there to better treat those that need the treatments,” stressed Nelson.

The secretary of the DHHR, Bill Crouch, told lawmakers a week ago Hopemont is 108 years old and loses more than $4 million a year.
He estimated it would cost $14.6 million to replace the facility. Renovating the current facility could take $15-20 million.