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WVU Urgent Care rejects Mon General FOIA request

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The parent of the West Virginia University Urgent Care clinic has refused to honor a Freedom of Information Act request for documents in a dispute with Monongalia General Hospital, saying it's a private entity and not required to share information with a competitor. The Dominion Post says Mon General vows to keep fighting. Last month, Mon General asked the state Health Care Authority to reconsider an earlier decision to waive a certificate of need requirement for the relocation of WVU Urgent Care, run by University Health Associates. UHA wants to move the clinic 2 miles from its current location near WVU's Evansdale campus to the Suncrest Towne Center. The state requires certificates of need for projects exceeding $2.9 million unless the entity is exempt. That includes a private physician practice. The cost of moving WVU Urgent Care is estimated at $2 million to $4 million. The authority ruled that UHA qualifies as a private practice and is therefore exempt from the requirement. Mon General disputes that, arguing UHA is the clinical practice arm for WVU physicians -- controlled directly by WVU Hospitals and West Virginia United Health Systems.
The authority has yet to rule on Mon General's demand for reconsideration. Mon General's FOIA request included: a list of all services provided at the current site; minutes of UHA board meetings since 2008; records of taxes paid to Morgantown; and any agreements between UHA and WVU Hospitals. Dr. Judie Charlton, chief medical officer of UHA, told the newspaper that FOIA applies only to public entities. But Mon General President Darryl Duncan points to a 1986 Circuit Court case that deemed UHA a public entity. In a news release, the hospital said UHA settled previous litigation by agreeing to comply with FOIA and the West Virginia Open Government Proceedings Act. Last week, UHA's board met to revoke that decision, Duncan said. In the resolution it passed, UHA said it should be covered under a 1989 state Supreme Court ruling that determined the WVU Foundation -- WVU's privately run fundraising arm -- is not subject to FOIA. The challenge to the authority's handling of the relocation follows another recent conflict between Mon General and WVU Hospitals. Mon General recently dropped its challenge to a $248 million expansion under a deal that required WVU Hospitals to reduce the number of beds in its new patient tower by 25.
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