The House Finance Committee will continue to review a bill today that would force the state to sell off the Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley.
Though the bill requires the state to ensure patients are transferred to an area facility, it might be easier said than done, according to testimony from Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Crouch at a hearing Friday.
He said most other long-term care hospitals are full, and the state at large is short on nurses. He said the long-term plan would be to use funds from selling the hospital to create a new facility to minimize patient impact.
“What I had intended with this approach was to get the state of West Virginia out of these old buildings and out of the potential liability we have with those buildings, and to place residents into a better environment,” he said.
The most recent version of the bill requires the state to divest entirely from the hospital by Dec. 31, 2017; an adopted amendment requires the state to sell all vacant beds by July 1, 2017.
The hospital currently houses between 91 and 93 patients, depending on the day, according to Crouch.
Should the state end up selling the hospital, the money will go into a special revenue account, known as the “Health Care Facilities Liquidation Fund.” Crouch said that money would go toward the potential new facility.
Although the hospital keeps roughly 92 beds occupied at any time, Crouch said it could sell as many as 108 beds, though a proposed amendment to the bill could lead to another problem.
The amendment calls for the state to sell all the available beds, not just the occupied ones. Crouch said this could end up costing the state more money because those beds could be filled with patients with more severe disabilities, which would burden the state’s Medicare system.
He estimated the state could sell the beds, without the care facility backing, for between $10,000 and $15,000 per bed. Each bed that ends up filled with a Medicare recipient will cost $80 per day.
The bill also contains provisions to “create a strategy” to minimize the effect on hospital workers.
According to Crouch, the hospital is one of four the state is trying to privatize, each with their own individual pieces of legislation.
A similar bill that would have sold off Jackie Withrow Hospital, along with John Manchin Sr. Health Center, Lakin Hospital and Hopemont Health Center, passed through the House but died in the Senate last year.
Reach Jake Zuckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5149 or @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.