FAIRMONT — Cherie Moore and Kelly Smith were heartbroken when they learned in February they’d be losing their jobs at Fairmont Regional Medical Center.
On Tuesday, Moore and Smith returned to the site of their old workplace to raise the WVU Medicine flag and help welcome Fairmont Medical Center to the campus of their former employer.
“It’s been really neat to see all the changes that WVU has made,” said Smith, who is a pharmacist at the new Fairmont Medical Center. “It looks wonderful so we’re excited to start health care here.”
WVU Medicine officially opened Fairmont Medical Center, its new temporary home in Marion County, on Tuesday with a ceremony and open house event to show off the site to the community. The re-newed facility has 12 emergency department beds and 10 inpatient beds, and will primarily serve as an emergency department for local residents until WVU Medicine opens its facility it plans to construct on the Gateway Connector within the next two years.
“It’s going to be pretty full service,” said Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Health System. “It’ll be more like one of our critical access hospitals to start in more rural facilities. It won’t necessarily be like Ruby Memorial in Morgantown or United Hospital Center in Bridgeport.”
According to Wright, although it is operating out of the space previously used by FRMC, the Fairmont Medical Center has been slightly rearranged and updated with some new technology to bring it up to par with other WVU Medicine facilities.
“This is all WVU Medicine quality,” Wright said. “So everything we’ve got there is exactly the way we would do it in any of our facilities.”
Wright spoke at the grand opening ceremony Tuesday, which welcomed community officials and other residents to hear about and see what was new in the facility. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, also spoke at the event, and said the importance of having local health care is what brought WVU Medicine to Fairmont.
“We believe as a university and as a health system that every part of the state is part of our responsibility,” Gee said. “Health care is of primary importance to this state and to this community in this time.”
Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield also spoke, and said the development of this hospital is only the beginning of a bigger health care system for Marion County in the future.
“It’s like we’ve had an empty chair at the table here for a few months,” Merrifield said. “But this is the beginning, in my opinion, of a much greater health care system down the road.”
Other community and state officials present were pleased to see an emergency department in Fairmont once again. Del. Michael Angelucci, (D-50), is also administrator of the Marion County Rescue squad, and said the job of its staff is much easier now that they don’t have to transport emergency patients to a different county for treatment.
“It is a wonderful day knowing that we have a community hospital that has been reopened,” Angelucci said. “Having our community hospital open is going to be a tremendous help for emergency medical services, especially for those patients who are suffering from life-threatening emergencies.”
Del. Mike Caputo, (D-50), said after the ceremony that the impact of a hospital on a community extends past just the financial, as it will help save the lives of people experiencing emergencies.
“It’s certainly a very happy day to see those doors open once again at Fairmont hospital,” Caputo said. “Not only the economic part with the jobs and the community, but we really do believe it will save lives.”
The interior of the hospital has not changed much, except for an updated color scheme and the implementation of new technology. However, some areas have been redeveloped, and the only entrance now is the side Emergency Room entrance, since it will be the hospital’s primary focus.
Wright said although the Locust Avenue location is only temporary, Fairmont Medical Center has other services, including imaging, and WV Medicine could potentially add more in the coming year, depending on what the need in the community looks like.
“We’ll build up over time to see what is the need in the community,” Wright said. “Obviously, the clear need right now was emergency services. It’s a long way to go north or south up 79, so we’ll start there and we’ll add whatever is necessary.
“I always like when we can bring more community services. I’ll be happy to add as many services as necessary.”
Wright said at the ceremony that the hospital officially opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and patients had already been transported by EMS services. The staff of Fairmont Medical Center is now made up of WVU Medicine personnel, as well as some staffers who had worked at Fairmont Regional, like Smith and Moore. Moore said this mixture is good, because it offers a different spectrum of skills to the region.
“We have a mixture of people who worked here when it was Fairmont [Regional] and people who came from WVU,” Moore said. “So I think that’s a nice thing.”
Just being able to be back in their home community was exciting for Smith and Moore. Raising the flag on a new health care system in Marion County was exciting for Smith, and she looks forward to be back in the local community.
“I am very excited to have healthcare back in Marion County,” Smith said. “So it was nice to raise it to open up the doors.”
Fairmont Regional Medical Center closed March 19, about two months after its owner, Alecto Healthcare Services LLC of Irvine, California, announced it would close the facility they said had lost $19 million in the least three years and could not find a suitable buyer to take it over.