The Williamson Memorial Hospital in Mingo County is prepared to close on Tuesday, while a local health center finalizes plans to purchase the institution.
Earlier this month, the Williamson Health and Wellness Center announced its offer to purchase the hospital for $3.68 million.
Darrin McCormick, executive assistant and community liaison for the center, said on Monday his employer’s intentions haven’t changed and they hope to have the deal sealed by the end of this month.
Hospital staff were not available to address how many patients are currently being treated at the facility, and where patients will go during the hospital’s closure. According to a statement from the facility’s CEO Gene Preston on Facebook, the hospital spent seven months reorganizing after filing for bankruptcy in the fall. However, the impact from the ongoing pandemic was too “sudden and severe” for the hospital to handle.
“I remain in awe of the dedication and perseverance of the employees of the hospital, whom I have had the pleasure to work with and to know,” the statement read. “It is rare to find such a dedicated work force with an aligned vision and purpose to take care of patients and the community. I want all of you to know that your influence on me has made me a better leader and person.”
McCormick said he’s unsure who the hospital will rehire when the purchase is finalized, but the fact that the Mingo County area medical community is small means many of the former Williamson Memorial employees could return to work in the same place.
The hospital is closing its doors weeks after the state began testing for the coronavirus, which has killed 26 people statewide. More than 900 people have tested positive, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
“We’re all here deeply saddened by the closing. It’s a huge loss for us and we’ve always worked closely with the hospital,” said Keith Blankenship, administrator for the Mingo County Health Department on Monday. “Hopefully something better will come along through the Health and Wellness Center.”
According to Blankenship, all three of Mingo County’s federally qualified health centers – including Williamson Health and Wellness – offer testing. On Monday, he reported the county had collected more than 150 tests.
Hospitals in Logan County and in nearby Kentucky remain open.
“Mileage wise, it doesn’t look that far, [but] it’s still time consuming to get to them, because of our roads,” Blankenship said.
Two people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Mingo County as of April 20, one of which has died. Across the Tug Fork River in Pike County, Kentucky, the local health department’s website says there have been six positive cases, including two deaths and one recovery.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.