Pleasant Valley, Cabell Huntington sign agreement - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Pleasant Valley, Cabell Huntington sign agreement

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Mario Liberatore, chairman of the Pleasant Valley board, discusses the new management agreement with Cabell Huntington Hospital. Mario Liberatore, chairman of the Pleasant Valley board, discusses the new management agreement with Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Problems in recruiting physicians to Pleasant Valley Hospital led to problems on the bottom line, so last week the hospital signed a management agreement with Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Pleasant Valley is one of several hospitals in West Virginia that has encountered financial problems in recent years. Of the 25 not-for-profit acute care hospitals in the state, seven reported operating losses in fiscal year 2011, according to the state Health Care Authority. Pleasant Valley was in the middle of that group, reporting a loss of $2.3 million.

According to the hospital's income statement filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Pleasant Valley drew down about $100,000 of its cash on hand to cover the shortfall, with the rest coming from its savings.

"We were trending to where we didn't like the line we were on. We needed to reverse that. This affiliation creates the opportunity to do that," Larry Unroe, interim CEO of Pleasant Valley, said.

The goal of the management agreement from Pleasant Valley's perspective is to turn around its problems with finances and recruiting specialists.

"It's not a change of ownership. It's not a sale of assets," Unroe said in a ceremony Dec. 4 in the lobby of the hospital's main entrance.

Pleasant Valley will retain its name and will continue as a full-service, separate hospital in Point Pleasant with its own medical staff and employees. Cabell Huntington will provide assistance with physician recruiting and management. Pleasant Valley will work with Cabell Huntington, the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Marshall Health to offer new benefits and improved access to highly specialized medical care.

Mario Liberatore, chairman of the Pleasant Valley board of directors, said the hospital had lost several physicians and could not recruit new ones to replace them. That led to the dropoff in patient revenue and net income, he said

Unroe said Pleasant Valley has had a difficult time recruiting physicians to a small community.

"Part of the key to really driving success in the future is for any hospital to have a great medical staff and a great medical community, so a lot of the partnership for us was (that) we need to rebuild that medical community," he said. "We saw that opportunity with Marshall."

Cabell Huntington CEO Brent Marsteller said his first goal within the partnership is to bring more primary and specialty care to the Point Pleasant community. For Cabell Huntington, the agreement provides referrals to specialists in Huntington "and setting up a system that's seamless for the patients and their families," he said.

Liberatore said Pleasant Valley discussed possible management agreements with four hospitals.

"They were all very interested," he said. "They were all great institutions, but Cabell and their affiliation with Marshall just seemed to be a better fit for us, and their ability to supply doctors to our area was a great plus as well, because a small community has trouble recruiting physicians."

Marsteller said Cabell Huntington is not negotiating management agreements with other hospitals at present.

Among the first steps to be accomplished under the management agreement is the recruiting of a permanent CEO for Pleasant Valley. The Pleasant Valley CEO will be a member of the Cabell Huntington executive team. Liberatore said he expects the CEO to be appointed in the first quarter of 2014.

Unroe said the agreement should not result in job reductions at Pleasant Valley but instead in job increases as specialties and specialists are added.

Pleasant Valley's board of directors approved the agreement Nov. 18. The Cabell Huntington board approved it Dec. 3. The agreement became effective Dec. 4. Officials from both hospitals signed the agreement during the ceremony in the Pleasant Valley lobby.

Cabell Huntington is a not-for-profit, 303-bed academic medical center located in Huntington. It is home to the Hoops Family Children's Hospital and the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. It provides care for patients from more than 29 counties throughout West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Opened in 1956, it is a teaching hospital and is affiliated with Marshall University schools of medicine and nursing.

Pleasant Valley Hospital was established in 1959. It is a not-for-profit health care system that provides community-oriented health care for Mason and Jackson counties in West Virginia and the counties of Gallia and Meigs in Ohio. The 201-bed facility includes a 101-bed acute care facility, a 100-bed nursing & rehabilitation center, three medical equipment sites and a full range of rehabilitation services. Pleasant Valley operates 15 medical clinics.

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