Recovery mode: A changing health care landscape

Barnesville Hospital ready to meet care needs

T-L Photo/JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH Registered nurses Shelby Jefferis, left, and Becky Cline prepare a bed in “the Richard L. Doan Emergency Department” for an incoming patient.

BARNESVILLE — In March, Belmont County was home to three hospitals that provided an array of care to residents. By Oct. 7, that number will be reduced to one.

On April 5, Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire closed its doors for good. Now, residents of Martins Ferry and the surrounding area are watching and waiting as the planned closure of East Ohio Regional Hospital draws near. Its parent company, Alecto Healthcare Services of Irvine, California, announced in August that EORH and Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling would close by Oct. 7. OVMC already has been shuttered.

But one hospital remains in the county, and its CEO says it stands ready to fill much of the care gap that has residents concerned.

WVU Medicine-Barnesville Hospital CEO David Phillips recently sat down with The Times Leader to discuss the future of health care in Eastern Ohio, and he said his facility has the capacity and the resources to meet the needs of many new patients. In fact, he believes people who are not familiar with the hospital will be pleased with what they find there.

“We have the ability to take on additional volume,” Phillips said. “We have very little wait time.”

Phillips pointed out that the Richard L. Doan Emergency Department was fully renovated in 2014 and that the updates were made with the potential to serve more people in mind. He said the hospital’s ER has the capacity to handle up to twice as many patients as it typically does today.

The ER features private treatment rooms, providing adequate space for staff, equipment and family members. During the renovation, the number of treatment rooms increased from three to eight, and enhanced triage capabilities were added. The work included the addition of a secure room for mental health treatment and potentially volatile patients, as well as state-of-the-art patient monitoring and technology.

Phillips stressed that while Barnesville might seem to be a long distance from communities in the central and eastern parts of the county, the 20- to 40-minute drive to the hospital located just 7 miles off of Interstate 70 might be well worth it. He said while patients might wait for two hours or more just to be seen in some tri-state emergency rooms, at Barnesville Hospital most patients are treated and released from the ER within two hours of their arrival.

Something similar is true for planned outpatient care, according to Phillips. He said procedures such as cataract surgery are performed at Barnesville regularly, and patients often can schedule such an appointment within a week or less.

With emergency care in mind, Phillips said the hospital has been working with first responders in the area. He said while those relationships have always been very strong, the hospital is reminding them that Barnesville is a potential destination for their patients, especially after EORH is closed.

Of course, he said, first responders in the field must make the best decision for their patient in each individual circumstance, but Barnesville Hospital is ready and willing to help stabilize any patient in need of emergency care and then get them where they need to be to receive the most appropriate care.

Leila Miller, the hospital’s director of community relations, pointed out that Barnesville also offers on-site lab services and X-rays, further reducing patient wait times. Those services at the hospital itself are available to any patient with a doctor’s orders, and the facility’s Morristown Family Medicine center and Belmont Professional Associates also provide lab and X-ray services on site for patients of those practices.

Other services available at Barnesville include: cardiopulmonary care, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging, dietary, a sleep lab, rehabilitation, pharmacy, social services and Addiction Services of Eastern Ohio. The Morristown location also features a pharmacy, home care equipment and primary care.

In looking toward the future, Phillips said Barnesville has reached out to recruit some of the employees who have been or will be displaced from OVMC and EORH. In particular, he said, his hospital has nursing positions available. The hospital also is working with some private practice physicians who may need to find new office space.

In October, Barnesville will welcome a new general surgeon, Dr. Frank G. Schiebel, to its staff. The board-certified surgeon received his doctor of medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. According to Miller, he completed his surgical residency at WVU, where he also served as administrative chief resident. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and has been practicing at the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg, W.Va., since 2012.

The hospital in recent months also agreed to lease the downtown Bohandy building from the village, and Phillips said officials are still evaluating services that could potentially be offered there. Specifically, he said that site might be used to expand addiction and behavioral health services.

“We have a drug problem…” Phillips said of the local area and the nation. “The need for behavioral health services is a critical concern in the Ohio Valley. … We need more resources in that area.”

After recently joining forces with WVU Medicine under a management agreement, Barnesville also is looking at ways to work with other hospitals within that network. For example, Phillips said Barnesville is looking to expand its women’s health services and prenatal care to work in conjunction with WVU Medicine – Reynolds Memorial Hospital, which has reopened its birthing center.

Barnesville stopped delivering babies in 1974, and there are no plans to revive those services at the site. But through a partnership with Reynolds, Phillips said, expectant mothers could get to know their doctors at Barnesville and then deliver their children under the care of the same physician in Glen Dale.

“People fear there won’t be care available,” Phillips noted. “It will be. It will just be in a different setting.”

Both Phillips and Miller agreed that all area hospitals — including Wheeling Hospital and its Harrison Community Hospital in Cadiz, Trinity Health Systems in Steubenville and Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center in Cambridge — will need to work together to meet the needs of Ohio Valley patients after both OVMC and EORH are closed.

“There are no boundaries,” Phillips said. “We have to work collaboratively. Barnesville will be vital in terms of its emergency room and primary care. We need to get those relationships established so we can get our patients taken care of.”

“I don’t doubt we will come together to help ease some worries,” Miller said of area hospitals. “We are experiencing a paradigm shift.”

For more information about WVU Medicine – Barnesville Hospital, contact Miller at 740-425-5112 or lmiller@barnesvillehospital.com or visit barnesvillehospital.com. To schedule an appointment, call 740-425-5123.