Pilkington: FGH will stay strong

FGH President Albert Pilkington III was optimistic Wednesday in discussing the hospital’s future. Pilkington addressed members of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation at their quarterly Roundtable meeting.

With a Marion County population of nearly 60,000 and 65 doctors, Fairmont General Hospital should be a strong acute care community hospital well into the future, FGH President Albert Pilkington III said.

Since he took the reins at FGH in July 2004, Pilkington said the hospital’s financial position has steadily improved.

With an annual payroll of about $24 million and about 650 employees, FGH is a significant force in the county’s economy, he told members of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation Roundtable on Wednesday.

“The big thing we’re doing right now is trying to build up our cash reserves,” he said.

“By 2007, our long term debt will be at only 6 percent of our net revenue,” he said.

While the hospital’s board of directors late last year approved a $9 million project to build a new two-story medical fitness center on Interstate 79, FGH will avoid incurring too much debt.

FGH is seeking a state certificate of need for the new center.

“There’s a lot of talk in the health-care industry that the Medicare system is going to crash and burn in the 2009-2012 period,” because health-care costs are spiraling out of control, Pilkington said.

Taking on long-term debt like neighboring United Hospital Center is doing with its new $280 million regional hospital could be risky until the nation decides what to do about its health-care system, he said.

Congress and the American people have to decide whether health care is a right or a privilege, he said about the current national system of financing health care.

Meanwhile, health-care costs are making American industry and business uncompetitive compared to other countries, he said.

The hospital’s emergency room has 30,000 visits per year — “almost twice the population of Fairmont.” The hospital had 6,500 inpatients last year and 177,000 outpatient “visits” (including lab tests, X-rays or another form of outpatient services).

Last year, hospital staffers delivered 400 babies — “We’re doing our part to help Marion County grow.”

“So there’s no reason why the hospital shouldn’t be strong,” he said, noting that one of his first jobs as a hospital administrator was in a community of only 5,000 population and a trade area of only 30,000.

“And we pulled an operating margin (profit) of $800,000 a year from that hospital. We’re four times the size of that hospital so there’s no reason at all,” to worry about FGH’s future, he said.

E-mail Bill Byrd at bbyrd@timeswv.com.

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