Officials concerned after staff reductions, closures in state hospitals

Hospital closings and workforce reductions are taking place across the state at a time when experts say Western Virginians need health care most.

This week, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin announced a reduction in the workforce at Wheeling Hospital due to a drop in pandemic-related revenue and a pending deal. Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison said he hopes to cut 75 to 80 jobs through voluntary retirement.

Healthcare cuts are a trend across the Mountain State and three hospitals in West Virginia will close this year on July 30th. Fairmont Regional Medical Center in Marion County, Williamson Memorial Hospital in Mingo County and next week, Bluefield Regional Medical Center in Mercer County.

Debrin Jenkins, executive director of the West Virginia Rural Health Association, said that reducing health care in West Virginia will impact the residents who make up the third oldest population in the country, a vulnerable age group for COVID-19.

COVID-19 has grown in rural areas of the state, which have lost healthcare facilities.

“I think it’s dangerous redline, like I said, I think it’s going to be a huge increase in death,” said Jenkins.

An elderly population of patients and health care workers and a lack of private insurance are increasing the pressure in rural hospitals, Jenkins said.

Wheeling Hospital officials said layoffs could occur if not enough employees voluntarily accepted the severance package.

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