MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A $248 million expansion of WVU Hospitals would add 139 patient beds by the end of the four-year project and help meet what officials said Friday is an ever-growing demand for care.The project includes $32 million in financing and other costs, bringing the total proposed investment to $280 million, said President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce McClymonds.He said a certificate-of-need application will be filed next week with the West Virginia Health Care Authority, which still must approve the plans. However McClymonds said the need is clear: Lack of bed space forced WVU Hospitals to close and delay access to stable patients for the equivalent of 80 days last year."Imagine, waiting for care when you're in need," said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who attended a news conference announcing the plans. Tomblin said the expansion would help alleviate the strain on the staff and patients in a state with "less than ideal" health conditions.West Virginia has high rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.McClymonds attributes a 50 percent increase in demand for beds to an aging population and a growing recognition among West Virginians that they no longer need to leave the state for high-quality care."Our mission is to improve the quality of health care that we deliver and to attain the next level of performance as an organization," he said. "We think that to fail to do this would be to abdicate our responsibility within the state of West Virginia."McClymonds said no state funds are being sought for the project and "no extraordinary rate increase is anticipated." It would be the largest construction project since Ruby Memorial Hospital was built in the 1980s.
The project also would be a major source of economic development for north-central West Virginia. It's expected to create about 750 jobs across WVU Healthcare, which includes WVU Hospitals and University Health Associates."These are good-paying jobs," the governor noted, "and they're jobs that will save lives."The plans call for expansion of the emergency department and the Jon Michael Moore trauma center, and for 15 additional beds in the neonatal intensive-care unit of WVU Children's Hospital.Overall newborn deliveries are down in West Virginia, McClymonds said, but the number of high-risk deliveries is rising and now accounts for about 70 percent of all WVU Hospitals births.Expansion plans also envision new space for the morgue and renovations to clinical lab space.The last expansion, completed in 2008, added 105 beds and four operating rooms. When the proposed project is complete in 2016, WVU Hospitals will have a total capacity of 670 beds.Under the plan, the Rosenbaum Family House and the Child Development Center will be relocated and expanded. McClymonds said those moves could begin as soon as this summer.
More than 5,000 patients a year are transferred to WVU Hospitals from other facilities in the region, McClymonds said, so he doesn't anticipate objections to the certificate of need. Most of the increase, he said, is from patients who were previously going to Cleveland, Columbus or Pittsburgh for care."We don't think there will be anybody arguing about this expansion," he said. "We think this is good for the community and we think this is good for the state."