Mayor ‘shocked’ by EORH closure

T-L Photo/KAREN FATULA East Ohio Regional Hospital’s planned closure has elicited a variety of emotions from area residents, ranging from sadness to anger.

MARTINS FERRY — Following the news that East Ohio Regional Hospital will close in 60-90 days, Martins Ferry Mayor Robert Krajnyak said his city is not just losing a hospital, it’s losing part of itself.

“This is more than just a hospital to the community. It’s family. I was born there,” he said.

The hospital was built in 1906 and was first called Martins Ferry Hospital. The 140-bed health care facility works with the East Ohio Medical Office Building and East Ohio Regional Hospital Outpatient Centers in St. Clairsville. It also has operated a federally funded Respiratory and Occupational Black Lung Clinic and a certified skilled-rehabilitation unit.

The mayor said his office received calls Thursday from city residents who are upset and angry about the hospital’s planned closure. He also expressed his own disbelief that the hospital will no longer be part of the community.

“The announcement was a total shock,” he said. “It was a disappointment. Nobody saw it coming.”

Krajnyak said he knew the hospital was having problems, but he did not think the situation would end in a shutdown.

“We thought they would sell,” he said.

EORH, along with Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, is currently owned by Alecto Healthcare Services, which had been seeking a buyer for the two facilities. On Wednesday, EORH/OVMC President and CEO Daniel C. Dunmyer cited a $37 million loss over two years among the reasons for beginning the closure process.

Krajnyak said the city now is working diligently to find a way to keep EORH open.

“We met with the (Belmont County) commissioners today and have contacted the state and set up meetings,” he said.

The mayor noted that closure of the hospital will impact the city budget and the water department budget.

“There will be a one-half to three-quarter million dollar per year hit to the budget, but we can find ways to adjust,” he said.

Krajnyak said besides the loss of revenue, there will also be other serious repercussions to the community.

“People will lose their place to get health care. There are employees of the hospital who shop in Martins Ferry and hospital visitors who have lunch here that we will lose. Employees who are residents might be forced to move away for jobs,” he noted.

Krajnyak said the city would lose immediate access to an emergency room if EORH closes. This would not just be a loss to residents, but it would cause a difficult situation for police who may need to transport a person who has been arrested further away for any emergency treatment they might need.

The mayor said he does not plan to lose his community’s hospital without trying his best to prevent it.

“We are going to do everything we can as administrators to keep it open,” he said.

According to Krajnyak, the city is looking at several health care operations as potential buyers for East Ohio Regional Hospital, including West Virginia University, Trinity and Ohio State University.

“I’ll drive to Morgantown if I need to,” he said.

Time is of the essence in making a deal with a new buyer, Krajnyak said, since it is easier to transition the facility to a new owner rather than shut it down and reopen it.