The Times West Virginian

Opinion

April 6, 2014

Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region

Mere minutes often matter when it comes to emergency health care.

That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.

When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.

That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.

A fine medical facility means employment for hundreds of people providing a wide range of services.

That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.

It’s no secret that FGH has been facing financial challenges in recent years.

We’re hopeful, though, that some news from the hospital’s board of directors last week leads to a boost for FGH.

In relation to the hospital’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, board members held a special meeting Monday to consider initial bids from potential strategic partner candidates. The board of directors voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing Peggy Coster, Fairmont General’s interim president and CEO, to execute an asset purchase agreement, or APA, between the hospital and Alecto Healthcare Services. The motion also included authorization to evaluate any other potential agreements that are in the best interest of Fairmont General Hospital.

An agreement would mean Alecto would purchase the assets of Fairmont General, take over the hospital and work in conjunction with the staff to run, maintain and improve the facility, said Michael Garrison of Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC in Morgantown, general counsel for Fairmont General.

A partnership with Alecto is not guaranteed.

Garrison explained that before approval by the bankruptcy court, in a process that began last September, a public auction process will take place to test the market to see if there are any other entities that have emerged or might emerge to make a better bid than what Alecto has proposed.

Fairmont General, as the debtor, is required to submit a plan to emerge from bankruptcy. This will happen over the course of the next two to three months. Again, the court must approve these actions, Garrison said.

Alecto Healthcare Services is a for-profit corporation headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., that has acquired 20 acute-care hospitals. Alecto, which has more than 100 cumulative years of hospital experience among its management team, was one of at least three entities that submitted proposals to participate as a strategic partner with FGH, Garrison said.

“The board has evaluated those and every other possibility that’s out there and decided ... that the best path forward for maintaining the hospital here in Fairmont would be to work toward partnering (with Alecto),” he said.

Garrison added that “the board has been extremely diligent in looking at every option with the overarching goal of keeping this hospital open in Fairmont. The board is to be commending for that, and management as well.”

Residents in this area along the Interstate 79 corridor are fortunate to have excellent health-care facilities close by — FGH along with Ruby Memorial Hospital and Monongalia General Hospital in Morgantown and United Hospital Center in Bridgeport.

The goal, obviously, is to continue to have the other hospitals in addition to FGH, not in place of it.

“Our ultimate goal when we filed for bankruptcy protection is the same goal we have in taking this important step today: to make sure Fairmont General will be healthy, strong and well-positioned to thrive and provide quality care in this community for generations to come,” J. Michael Martin, FGH board member, said in a press release.

That goal is well stated.

The Fairmont General situation will be monitored closely in the months to come with a thought that must not be forgotten.

We need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.

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