The Times West Virginian

February 25, 2014

FGH moving forward in bankruptcy proceedings

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — By the end of March, Fairmont General Hospital should have more definite and detailed information about a strategic partner.

Michael Garrison of Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC in Morgantown, general counsel for Fairmont General, reported that the hospital’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy is moving forward.

“The case itself is progressing really in a very standard way,” he said. “It’s been not very controversial, which has been good, thus far. We are now moving to the stage in the process where we will have some finality to the search for a strategic partner.”

In early September, Fairmont General Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, and  later that month experienced a change in leadership. Peggy Coster, former vice president of patient services, was named interim president and CEO following the resignation of Robert C. Marquardt.

Once the partnership process is completed this spring, the hospital’s Board of Directors will need to make some decisions and then go before the bankruptcy court to request approval for the partnership and strategic plan, Garrison said.

“It’s premature to identify anyone specifically, but there are multiple entities who are very interested,” he said of the hospital’s potential partner.

When Fairmont General entered into the bankruptcy process as the debtor in possession, it asked for exclusivity to develop a strategic plan and conduct the partnership search. When the case began, the hospital was permitted to have this exclusivity for a set amount of days, and about a month ago Fairmont General asked for that period to be extended, Garrison said.

He explained that this is a normal part of the bankruptcy process and the established rules that must be followed. There were no objections to Fairmont General’s request for an extension.

Garrison said another standard component of Chapter 11 bankruptcy that involves a hospital is to ensure that the patient population is still well cared for while the transition is happening. A patient care ombudsman was appointed to visit with patients, management and staff at Fairmont General, and recently issued the first report.

“The hospital received very good marks, and of course Fairmont General’s recently won some awards for patient care and quality of care, and that was reflected in the patient care ombudsman’s report,” he said. “We were happy with the report. It supported what we know, and that is that there is good care here.”

The patient care ombudsman will continue to issue reports regularly during the bankruptcy proceedings, Garrison said.

In other Fairmont General Hospital news:

• During its meeting on Monday, the Board of Directors, voted unanimously to elect Dr. T. Wesley Steele to the board to fill the unexpired term of Randy Elliott.

• Mike Martin was presented with a gift of appreciation for his 10 years of service as chairman of the board.

• In the month of January, 78 hospital volunteers contributed about 627 hours of service, bringing the yearly total up to 10,323 hours.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.