Brooke Commission supports new hospital service

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Commission will give its blessing to an effort by Weirton Medical Center officials to make long-term acute care available at the hospital.

The commission heard Tuesday from David Artman, WMC director of operations; and John Frankovitch, president of the hospital’s executive board; who said the hospital plans to form a partnership with Acuity Healthcare of Steubenville to establish a 20-bed long-term acute care unit at the hospital next spring or summer.

Artman said the unit will allow patients in intensive care units to transition from there to skilled care facilities, rehabilitation or home care without leaving the hospital. He said patients in the new unit will be overseen by a physician-led team able to provide them more focused treatment.

Frankovitch said such patients often have been transferred to other medical facilities, sometimes farther from their homes, which can create a hardship for them and their families.

The new unit is expected to be staffed by at least 60 employees, with current hospital staff providing ancillary services. Acuity Healthcare will have access to WMC facilities, such as operating rooms and labs, through a financial arrangement between the two, Artman said.

Frankovitch said the joint venture is pending the issue of a certificate of need by the West Virginia Healthcare Authority. He said Weirton City Council and the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle have agreed to submit letters of support also.

In other business:

Norm Schwertfeger, Brooke County West Virginia University Extension agent, introduced Jason Rine, the agency’s new coordinator of 4-H programs.

A Weirton native and graduate of West Virginia University, Rine previously served as drug-free community coordinator for the Advocates for Substance Abuse Program affiliated with the Brooke-Hancock Family Resource Network.

He said he looks forward to helping the 4-H program to grow.

Schwertfeger also told the commission response has been tremendous to the culinary tour of Wellsburg being held by the extension service, Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce and Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle.

Slated for Wednesday, the event will include stops for entrees at the Station Grille, The Crooked Dock, The River Club and Legends Steaks and Spirits, all for a $25 admission.

Schwertfeger said because it’s the first year for the event, he expected about 20 participants but has received 40 reservations with still more on a waiting list.

He said he’s been approached about helping with a culinary tour in Hancock County.

The commission made plans to meet with members of the Brooke County school board at 9 a.m. Friday at the county courthouse to canvass ballots from Saturday’s special election.

The school district’s five-year operating levy was supported by a large majority of voters.

County Clerk Sylvia Benzo said the election went smoothly except for a glitch with one electronic voting machine that will force votes from it to be hand-counted and another that didn’t shut down properly, though votes could be retrieved from it.

She said the two machines will be sent to their manufacturer for inspection.

The commission received letters of resignation from Brooke Hills Park board members Peggy Erlewine and Cathy Hervey and a letter of interest in serving on the board from Joe Mullenbach of Wellsburg.

Terms for several seats on the board will expire later this year. But the commission has tabled filling the seats while investigating a proposal by some on the board to reduce its membership.

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