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West Virginia hospital group eyes bankruptcy, not closing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia hospital system announced Friday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but assured that it is not closing its doors.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Thomas Health said in a news release Friday that it is hoping to lessen its debt.

In West Virginia, other hospitals have closed in Bluefield, Richwood and Wheeling. Williamson Memorial Hospital filed for bankruptcy in October.

“Thomas Health is not closing its doors and there are no planned changes to employment, services, or how we deliver care to our patients,” the release said. “The Chapter 11 process will not affect enrollment of patients or employers in healthcare plans in 2020. This strategic step allows Thomas Health to align its operations with the realities of the current healthcare industry and meet the ongoing health care needs of the communities it serves.”

The nonprofit system includes Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, Saint Francis Hospital in Charleston, and THS Physician Partners Inc.

The system cited several financial challenges it said are largely beyond its control. Commercially insured patients are significantly decreasing int he state; many patients can’t afford deductibles; Medicaid, Medicare and the Public Employees Insurance Agency are reimbursing below cost; and substance-use disorder treatment costs often exceed reimbursement, it said.

The health system has a combined 383 beds, about 1,800 employees and 450 physicians. Early last year, WorkForce West Virginia listed Thomas Health as the 18th largest employer in the state.