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Wheeling Hospital announces plans for expansion

BELLAIRE — To meet continuing health care needs of Belmont County residents, Wheeling Hospital is expanding its health center in Bellaire and opening an ambulatory surgical center in Bridgeport.

Plans for the two facilities were announced Wednesday during a press conference at Wheeling Hospital.

Even with the impending closure of Belmont Community Hospital, “plenty of health services will still be available in Bellaire and surrounding communities,” said Gregg Warren, Wheeling Hospital’s vice president of marketing and public relations.

Last month, Wheeling Hospital announced that its Belmont Community Hospital division will close permanently on April 5. That hospital has served the area for 105 years.

To fill the medical gap in the community, Belmont Community Health Center is being renamed and rebranded as Bellaire Health Center, a division of Wheeling Hospital. The center is located on Guernsey Street, behind Imperial Plaza.

The health center will offer “a number of services that have existed for many years (at Belmont Community Hospital) with the addition of a few new ones,” Warren said.

Services available at the health center include lab work, blood work, X-rays, physical therapy, family physicians, cardiology, internal medicine, a public pharmacy, podiatry, electrocardiograms, plastic surgery and occupational therapy. A drive-up window will be added at the pharmacy, he said.

“Those services are still going to be the same and even upgraded,” said John DeBlasis, Wheeling Hospital vice president. He also has served as vice president of BCH.

DeBlasis said the health center is in a convenient location, near the Ohio 7 exit, and has parking available adjacent to the facility. He added that the center’s parking lot is more accessible than the old hospital’s lot.

In addition, Wheeling Hospital has purchased the former Compassionate Care Center for Surgical Excellence site in the Aetnaville area of Bridgeport, Warren said. The building, which has been vacant for two years, will become the Wheeling Hospital Ambulatory Surgical Center.

“A lot of the surgical care at Belmont Community Hospital will be performed at that new surgical center,” Warren said.

DeBlasis said the surgical center is expected to open in August. Renovations and upgrades to the building are underway.

The former center, which opened in 2013, was owned initially by Chiron Partners. East Ohio Regional Hospital of Martins Ferry later became the majority owner of the operation. EORH operated the outpatient surgery center for about a year, before closing it in early 2017.

Meanwhile, Wheeling Hospital will continue to operate health centers in St. Clairsville, Shadyside, Colerain, Bridgeport and Powhatan Point, Warren said.

Regarding BCH’s upcoming closure, DeBlasis said, “It’s devastating news for a hospital to close anywhere. Nationwide, hospitals are closing every week. To continue to offer these types of services to the community has been our mission and continues to be our mission.”

Discussions are ongoing concerning the fate of the BCH property and any decision “is still a work in progress,” DeBlasis said. “It’s premature to speculate what the final outcomes will be.”

The 99-bed acute care hospital was acquired by Wheeling Hospital in 1996. It opened as Bellaire City Hospital in 1914.

Wheeling Hospital officials have said it will offer positions to Belmont Community Hospital’s 93 employees within its system where job openings are available.

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