Last updated: October 22. 2013 8:21PM - 5829 Views
Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

Kyle Lovern/WDN PhotoARH in South Williamson is pictured above. It was renovated a few years ago. ARH was started by the UMWA back in the late 1950s and is commonly referred by many local citizens as the “Miners Hospital.”
Kyle Lovern/WDN PhotoARH in South Williamson is pictured above. It was renovated a few years ago. ARH was started by the UMWA back in the late 1950s and is commonly referred by many local citizens as the “Miners Hospital.”
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S. WILLIAMSON, Ky. - The Appalachian Tug Valley Health Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) expects this week to file a Certificate of Need (CON) to acquire the Williamson Memorial Hospital from the Health Management Associates, Inc., based in Naples, Florida.

As part of the CON, ARH also plans to request approval to merge the services of the Williamson Memorial Hospital with the South Williamson Appalachian Regional Hospital.

“ARH is exploring all options for the future use of the Williamson Memorial campus,” stated Joe Grossman,” President and Chief Executive Officer of the ARH Healthcare system. “The final transfer of ownership will likely occur in early 2014. Until then, Williamson Memorial will continue to operate and provide patient care as it does today.”

“The agreement to purchase Williamson Memorial Hospital follows much consideration by both hospitals and is a significant move that will strengthen and increase access to specialty and hospital care for everyone in the Tug Valley,” said Grossman. “We are confident that this is the right move for preserving excellent healthcare for generations to come.”

In regards to the merger, Tim Hatfield, Community CEO of the S. Williamson ARH, spoke to the Williamson Daily News on Tuesday, explaining what the combining of hospitals will mean for the public and hopes to offer some information that will put rumors and questions to rest that have surfaced regarding the buy-out.

“On the 7th of this month, we gave notice that we would be applying for a Certificate of Need,” said Hatfield. “We were required by law to give a 15 day notice before filing the request. On this Friday, the 25th, we will file for the CON that is required so that we can move on to the next stage of purchasing WMH.”

Hatfield spoke of how the Tug Valley area has two acute-care facilities within a two-mile radius of each other that both require ongoing investments in new technology, on-call specialists, equipment and facility updates to meet the demands of healthcare reform, the fiscal responsibilities of Medicaid and Medicare - and according to the CEO, too few patients to fill the need of duplicate resources. The declining population of the Tug Valley, coupled with the diminishing number of patients who access WMH, has resulted in insufficient demand to support two full-service hospitals in the area.

According to Hatfield and Grossman, WMH and ARH are not alone in the pursuit of partnerships. In 2012 alone, approximately 110 hospital merger, acquisition and partnership deals occurred, representing more than 350 hospitals in the U.S.

The administrators say that ARH’s plan will bring together the two hospitals in a manner that will eliminate duplication of services, and will ensure that physicians, nurses and other caregivers have the resources necessary to continue the delivery of high-quality care, and provide the community the greatest benefit possible in a fiscally responsible manner well into the future.

“Over the years, it has become clear that a small community like ours needs one strong system that leverages the resource of both organizations - instead of having two hospitals with duplicated services competing for too few patients,” stated Hatfield.

“We know now, more than ever, that ARH has a responsibility to listen to the community and to grow and change access to services according to the needs of patients here. We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Hatfield spoke of the strong history of ARH remarking of how in 1956, the United Mine Workers of America founded the Miner’s Memorial Hospital Association, which would later become the S. Williamson ARH. The ARH system is the largest provider of care in Eastern Kentucky and in Southern West Virginia.

ARH currently serves the needs of more than 350,000 residents across these regions, and has nearly 5,000 employees and a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members that represent various specialties. In the Tug Valley area alone, 45 percent of S. Williamson ARH’s employees live in WV, and in the first 10 months of 2013, more than half of the patients treated at the local ARH were residents of WV.

“At the S. Williamson ARH facility, our system has invested nearly $9 million dollars since 2005 in upgrades, medical technology and new infrastructure that includes a new OB suite, oncology services and a Medical Mall,” said Hatfield. “In the last six years, ARH has recruited more than 20 new physicians to the area.”

“Following the filing of the CON, ARH will begin working with the WV Heath Care Authority, other state elected officials and regulators, health plans, union leaders, local community leaders and EMS to ensure a smooth transition. ARH is committed to assisting the WMH employees through the transition as much as possible, including offering employment to the majority of current staff members in anticipation of greater patient volumes at Williamson ARH.”

The conclusion of the interview with Hatfield that will include additional important information concerning the merger of the two local hospitals will be featured in Thursday’s edition of the WDN.

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