Fairmont hospital closing in ‘days,’ owner says in letter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Fairmont Regional Medical Center is shutting down ahead of schedule and will cease operations over the next several days.

Alecto Executive Vice President Michael J. Sarrao said the hospital will complete its winding down of services and will stop admitting patients over “the next several days.” Hospital officials said on Feb. 18 that the facility would close within 60 days.

The letter comes after last week’s announcement that West Virginia University Medicine would take over portions of the facility while constructing a new hospital in the area. Gov. Jim Justice and Albert L. Wright Jr., CEO and president of the WVU Health System, said Fairmont Regional Medical Center would be closed for around a month to allow for administrative turnover at the facility.

Sarrao wrote that the decision to shutter in the coming days was “based on Governor Justice’s and WVU Medicine’s announcement.”

“In other words, the plan announced by Governor Justice and WVU Medicine on Friday specifically calls for FRMC and its emergency room to be closed for a period of time before WVU Medicine commences operations at the FRMC location,” he wrote.

Wright last week said he anticipated that the Fairmont Regional Medical Center would be closed from the end of March to around early-to-mid May while preparations are made for WVU Medicine to operate there. He said he planned to have resources to transport patients to different facilities while the Fairmont hospital is temporarily closed, acknowledging potential problems that could emerge as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We might have a bumpy couple months here but long term we’re going to get it right,” he said last week.

The new WVU Medicine hospital will be about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away from the shuttering Fairmont Regional Medical Center and is expected to have 100 beds and about 500 employees, Justice said. It is expected to be open within 18 to 24 months.

The California-based Alecto has drawn severe local criticism over its decision last month to close the hospital. Hospital officials said they could not find a buyer for the facility.

State Del. Michael Angelucci, who operates an ambulance service in Fairmont, shared Sarrao’s letter with The Associated Press.

The announcement followed several other hospital closures or health care cutbacks in the region.

Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant recently announced it was cutting 53 full-time jobs and ending obstetrics services. Hospitals in Bluefield and Richwood have closed. Williamson Memorial Hospital filed for bankruptcy in October, and a nonprofit system that operates hospitals in Charleston and South Charleston announced last month that it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but would remain open.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.