Community-Based Health Care Center Plans To Buy Williamson Hospital

Apr 1, 2020

A local health center has plans to buy the Williamson Memorial Hospital in Mingo County after the hospital announced Monday plans to close at some point in April.

An offer from the Williamson Health and Wellness Center to purchase the hospital for $3.68 million was approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday, April 1. 

The judge has yet to sign the order, according to attorney Mike Hissam, from the legal firm representing the health and wellness center. He added they are planning to close the deal by April 30. 

The center had to pay half a million dollars as a deposit and submit financial information to prove their purchasing capability for the court to approve their offer. 

The hospital, which dates back to 1918, began bankruptcy proceedings in February, according to the Associated Press. It’s uncertain at this time if they will have to close temporarily before the Williamson Health and Wellness Center purchase.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the original announcement of closure of the hospital was met with concern from several elected officials, including Gov. Jim Justice. 

“They plan to continue critical functions at the hospital and add new services,” Justice said in a written news release on Wednesday. “It’s a real blessing for Williamson and Mingo County and I am extremely appreciative and thankful.”

Administration for the current hospital leadership has not responded to requests from West Virginia Public Broadcasting since the announcement for closure came out on Monday. 

“We’re excited about the opportunity for the community to retain this asset,” said Darrin McCormick, an executive assistant to the health and wellness center’s CEO on Wednesday. “The hospital is a substantial employer in the community.”

In a written statement Wednesday afternoon, the center said it has “exciting plans to preserve the hospital’s critical functions” while expanding the center’s own existing programs and services.

The Williamson Health and Wellness Center is a federal qualified health center, meaning it is a community based provider that operates on federal funding to provide primary care to under-served areas. 

According to the Health Resources and Service Administration in charge of that funding, these centers “must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.” 

Williamson Health and Wellness Center serves Mingo County and Pike County in Kentucky, offering behavioral, dental, pediatric, podiatric, nutritional and other primary care.

McCormick said Wednesday having access to an emergency room and a trauma center, both of which Williamson Memorial offers, is important. The city of Williamson itself is near the Logan Regional Medical Center and the Pikeville Medical Center, both of which can be less accessible for some of Mingo County’s more remote communities.

The Williamson Memorial Hospital is not the first facility to announce closure this year. In February, leadership for the Fairmont Regional Medical Center in Marion County broke the news they were closing in March. 

WVU Medicine later announced plans to open a new Fairmont facility in roughly two years. The college also said it plans to use the existing facility if additional space is needed to treat patients due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.