Privatization may be best option

Only 48 of the 98 beds at the Hopemont State Hospital in Terra Alta, W.Va., are occupied — yet there are 50 people on the waiting list to be admitted. How can that be?

Because the hospital, which specializes in long-term care for geriatric patients, is run by the government, that’s how.

Hopemont is one of seven state-run hospitals included in a report issued Monday by the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia. State officials should consider privatizing some or all of the facilities, the foundation concluded.

Included in the study, in addition to Hopemont, were the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center in Fairmont, Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Cabell County, William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Lewis County, Welch Community Hospital in McDowell County, Jackie Withrow Hospital in Raleigh County and the Lakin Hospital in Mason County.

State government’s lack of flexibility on matters such as paying health care professionals salaries competitive enough to attract them to the hospitals was among challenges cited in the report. At Hopemont, staffing shortages are the reason for the long waiting list.

State legislators ought to consider the report’s recommendation carefully and objectively. If the goal of the hospital network is to keep state government big; well, make no changes. But if it is to offer accessibility to quality health care to West Virginians, privatization may be something to think about.