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Saving our state’s smaller hospitals

It is difficult to conceive of what state government can do to help embattled small hospitals in West Virginia. Most of the challenges facing them, including unrealistic reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, cannot be addressed in Charleston.

Still, Gov. Jim Justice’s intention to form a task force to look at the issue may prove to be fruitful. At the very least, it could suggest what kinds of in-state reactions are helpful and what are not.

In our area, we are all too familiar with the problem. Last year, a California company shut down Ohio Valley Medical Center and nearby Martins Ferry Hospital. That sent other health care providers scrambling to avoid loss of certain services to local residents.

As is the case with many other industries, bigger can be better — or at least, more secure — when it comes to hospitals. As we have seen, several in our area have benefited from being taken over by West Virginia University Medicine or through management agreements with it. Justice has said major health care players including WVU Medicine and Charleston Area Medical Center will be key components of the task force.

That may produce jockeying for position among the “bigger parties,” as Justice referred to them. For that reason, we suggest the governor ask for two reports from the task force — one reflecting a consensus that may be steered by the larger entities and another reflecting smaller providers’ concerns and suggestions.

Again, there may be little state officials can do about the problem — but if there is something, we need to know about it.

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