Alecto Healthcare shuttering Fairmont Regional Medical Center in face of mounting losses

February 21, 2020
by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter
Fairmont Regional Medical Center, in Fairmont, West Virginia, is closing.

“Marion County and Fairmont are my home area. This is where I grew up. And we know that the 11th largest county and the 7th largest city in West Virginia can’t survive without a quality hospital. This is an unfortunate and painful trend across rural America. The closing of rural hospitals and clinics continues to make access to quality care harder and forces people to travel unreasonably far distances to receive the care they need,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D), West Virginia, in response to the news.

Fairmont Regional Medical Center (FRMC) and parent company Alecto Healthcare stated that they explored “all available options,” but after sustaining “losses of more than $19 million over the past three years,” had been unable to find a buyer, a partner, or any other solution, other than “winding down its operations,” according to WBOY-TV in West Virginia.

The plan now is for the facility to close permanently, according to “an internal communication from CEO Robert Adcock that is being shared on Facebook,” said the news station.

“Like other hospitals in West Virginia and across the country that are closing, planning to close, or filing for bankruptcy protection, FRMC has faced a number of challenges including difficulties recruiting physicians, vigorous competition from larger health systems for patients and physicians, declining patient volumes, the inability to qualify as a critical access hospital or sole community hospital (and the increased reimbursement from Medicare that comes along with such designations) due to its geographic location and the geographic location of other hospitals, decreasing reimbursement from all payors, increasing operating costs, and a physical plant that has required improvements as it has aged,” the center noted in its statement.

In response to the news, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) told the station today he and Marion County Senator Roman Prezioso will meet with hospital leadership in Fairmont this week “to evaluate our options and determine the best way forward.”

There has been some thought that West Virginia University Health System might be a candidate for taking over the center. A spokesperson told the WBOY-TV that, “we’re aware of the situation and are monitoring it very closely,” stressing that, “our commitment is always to ensure West Virginians have access to critical healthcare services,” adding that Marion County residents will still have access to services at its Fairmont Gateway Clinic and Whitehall Medical.

Mon Health System also responded to the news. Its President and CEO David Goldberg noted that his organization “will continue to provide care, treatment, and programs to residents through our already established services.”

Alecto Healthcare bought the hospital out of bankruptcy in 2014 for $15.3 million, according to the Times West Virginian.

Closings of rural hospitals are driving up mortality rates by nearly 6%, according to a 2019 study by University of Washington researchers.

“Rural closings increase travel times for patients, and lead to outmigration of health care professionals post-closure, severely dismembering patient access to care and exacerbating social disparities in health outcomes,” researchers Kritee Gujral and Anirban Basu wrote in their study, published online by the National Bureau of Economic Research.