WEIRTON - Years of lost revenue and other challenges have not kept Weirton Medical Center from bringing in a consultant firm and an experienced chief executive officer in the hope of turning the local hospital around.
Charles O'Brien, CEO for Weirton Medical Center, said he has had experience working with West Penn Allegheny for several years. He said the Weirton Medical Center has had its ups and downs but thinks the local hospital facility has the potential to improve its financial standing as well as the patient care.
O'Brien said hospitals are generally not-for-profit facilities but they are not in favor of losses either. He said in order to keep operations going some surplus needs to be generated.
HOSPITAL TALK — Chief Executive Officer of Weirton Medical Center Charles O’Brien talked with the Rotary Club of Weirton about the changes being made at the hospital. He discussed some goals, such as improved patient care. -- Angelina Dickson
"Weirton Medical Center is the largest employer in the area that's had its ups and downs but we have dedicated, quality people," he said.
O'Brien said issues the hospital has faced have been both internal and external. He said one of the major external issues Weirton Medical Center faces is the fact that healthcare in West Virginia is heavily regulated. He said in order to start a new program or facility, a certificate of need is required and surrounding communities and states are permitted submit derogatory comments.
Also, the government has established a rate review commission that controls what hospitals are allowed to charge. O'Brien said the Northern Panhandle in general is also a bit of an orphan in the medical field. He said there are 26 hospitals in the state and each of those other hospitals is reimbursed 400 percent higher than Weirton Medical Center.
"Even when insurance companies are billed, the state regulates how much they pay us," he added. "Thus giving us he lowest reimbursement rating in the state."
O'Brien talked about the quality and performance of the local hospital facility as well as how the hospital is gaged on a public and federal level. He said it is important today for hospitals to pay attention to quality care and performance because it will play a role in the future in how hospitals are reimbursed from the federal government. He said Weirton Medical Center has state and federal regulations it must follow in order to meet key standards of care, something the hospital must do in order to receive a stamp of approval.
According to O'Brien, the standards of care help Weirton Medical Center perform evidence-based medicine.
"For instance, if someone comes in for pneumonia, congestive heart failure or a heart attack, there are certain treatments the hospital must give every time within a certain amount of time," he said. "We are definitely making progress but we have a ways to go."
O'Brien said working with the consulting team to keep the more than 1,000 employees focused on the task at hand as well as quality is no easy feat, but the hospital is moving in the right direction.
(Dickson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)