WEST COLUMBIA, W.Va. — Proposed legislation which would close four state run long-term care facilities, including Lakin Hospital, remained parked in the House’s finance committee as of Tuesday afternoon.
House Bill 2626 proposes Lakin, along with Joe Manchin, Sr. Health Care Center in Fairmont, Hopemont Hospital in Preston County and Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley, would close effective Jan. 1. 2022.
This bill originated in the House Health and Human Resources Committee and some of the language includes placement of staff at other state facilities or a severance package. In addition, residents would be transferred to a long-term care facility “of his or her choosing that is able to accommodate his or her level of care.” If the resident is unable to make that decision “and his or her medical or legal power of attorney is unable to be reached to make a final decision regarding transfer, he or she shall be transferred to the nearest location which is able to accommodate his or her level of care,” the current draft of the bill states.
House Bill 2626 also states Lakin was built in 1926. In fact, the Lakin organization did open in 1926 but not much, if anything, reportedly remains of the original hospital and the nursing facility, which houses residents, was built in 1974 according to local officials. This makes Lakin Hospital’s current long-term care building 46 years old, not nearly 100 years old.
“I have been in that building numerous times as a community member, as a visitor, as a pastor…there’s never been a time I walked in and thought, ‘man, this place needs to be closed,’” Delegate Jonathan Pinson (R-Mason), who represents the 13th District in the House of Delegates, told the Register.
Pinson praised the facility for passing standard reviews and examinations which are required of Lakin to remain open as a viable option for those requiring long-term care.
“I would argue that amid the situation that we’re in right now (the pandemic), now is not the time to try and transplant patients all over the state,” Pinson added. “I have serious concerns and Lakin is able to accept patients with various problems that privately-run facilities either cannot, or will not, accept.”
Pinson also pointed out some residents have family members who live nearby and several of those families would be opposed to a transfer.
“This is going to be very troubling for our community…,” Pinson said when also speaking on the potential loss of jobs Lakin provides.
As of last week, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) reported 54 residents were being cared for at Lakin Hospital with 105 current employees at the facility.
The proposed legislation has also drawn opposition from State Senator Amy Grady (R-Mason) of the Fourth Senatorial District.
“I strongly oppose the closing of Lakin Hospital,” Grady said in a statement to the Register. “While I understand the state’s concerns over the amount of money that it costs to run this facility (and others like it). I believe closing the hospital will be detrimental to Mason County and residents and employees alike. We must consider every aspect and continue to look for another solution.”
The proposal has also drawn criticism from Mason County Commissioners who have stated their support for keeping the facility open.
Though Pinson said he couldn’t speak for the condition of the three other facilities listed in the legislation, he stated he did know Lakin Hospitalwas “well managed and has several years of life ahead of it.”
Pinson added he has spoken to DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch about his concerns as well.
More on the status of this bill and responses by other local, legislative officials as they become available.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.