A West Virginia hospital that was slated to close by year-end may turn out to be a holiday gift to a community group that wants to keep it open.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the board of trustees of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) agreed Nov. 23 to donate 46-bed Man (W.Va.) Appalachian Regional Hospital to the local group, which recently incorporated as a not-for-profit organization under the name Man Community Hospital.
The move followed several weeks of negotiations about whether to close the hospital, lease it to the group for $1 per year or have ARH give up ownership completely.
Stephen Hanson, president of Lexington, Ky.-based ARH, said the prospective owners will have to pick up the existing contracts with employed physicians and acquire an emergency certificate of need to clinch the deal by year-end.
"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done in a five-and-a-half week period," he said.
Not included in the deal is the home health agency affiliated with the hospital. Hanson said ARH is soliciting bids on the home-care business.
In early November, ARH announced it would close the hospital by year-end because of financial difficulties (Nov. 8, p. 28). Private, not-for-profit ARH operates 10 hospitals in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Millard Tomblin, president of the community group, said his organization has agreed to purchase two houses affiliated with the hospital for $125,000 and the hospital's equipment for $640,000. It may also buy pharmaceutical supplies for about $200,000.
To restore profitability to the hospital, which last year lost $3.6 million on revenues of $16 million, the group is considering converting the facility into a so-called critical access hospital, a federal designation that would allow more government reimbursements and less regulation.
Hanson said donating the hospital was more attractive than closing the facility or facing months of uncertainty marketing it to potential buyers.
Tomblin is a Man resident who is in the insurance business. Patricia Roach, a former schoolteacher, is chairwoman of the new organization's board, Tomblin said.
Despite the donation, if the deal goes through, Tomblin's group will end up spending roughly $1 million, Tomblin said. So far, he has commitments from area residents for at least that amount, he said.
"It's met all our hopes," Tomblin said. "It really has."