Expansion continues, no employees needed to be furloughed
COVID-19 has not been kind to Mon Health, but the Morgantown health care system through prudent financial planning and some belt-tightening measures, made it through the end of its fiscal year — which ended June 30 — without laying anyone off and is also moving ahead with expansion plans in neighboring Marion County and possibly beyond.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Dominion Post, Mon Health President and CEO David Goldberg and CFO Lisa Simon said they take their mission seriously of providing affordable and complete health care in north-central West Virginia, something they are both adamant about.
“Before COVID hit in March, we were 9% above budget,” Simon said. “We had full beds.”
Then the state of West Virginia told hospitals to stop doing elective surgeries and only do procedures that were needed the most, she said.
By the end of March, Mon Health was 14% below budget and 47% below budget in April.
“But we did not furlough staff,” Simon said.
Around the beginning of May, the state’s hospitals assured state government officials they had ample COVID-19 protocols and safety measures in place to do elective surgeries and health screenings. For Mon Health, it meant its bottom line was going to get healthy again.
Simon said by May, the system was 27% below budget, and by June, it was 6% above budget because surgeries and tests were again being permitted.
“We’re still waiting to see what the downstream effect,” of the screening delays, Goldberg said.
“The pandemic rocked everyone’s world.”
Still, out of 3,500 employees, who were screened daily, Goldberg said only six had the virus. Also, 50 people who were exposed to COVID-19 while working were paid administrative leave while recuperating.
“We screened every day starting at 5 a.m.,” he said.
Onward to Fairmont and beyond
Expanding into Marion County only makes sense to Goldberg and his executive team who believe people should not have to drive to receive health care.
That was especially evident when the owners of Fairmont Regional Medical Center said earlier this year they were going to close the hospital after failing to find a buyer.
Both Mon Health and WVU Medicine have announced plans for smaller-style hospitals in the state’s seventh-largest city. And WVU Medicine, meanwhile, has opened a portion of Fairmont Regional as an arm of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, its flagship facility.
Goldberg, who has brought on more than 20 new physicians since taking over the leadership reins of Mon Health two years ago, is excited about expanding its footprint in the adjacent county.
Last month, Mon Health began renovations on a former Huntington Bank building in the Fairmont Technology Park that will be physician’s offices. Plus, they will break ground later this year on a 10-bed hospital that will include an emergency room.
In addition, Mon Health Foundation invested $400,000 in Fairmont State University’s nursing program in August. That investment enables the university to hire more faculty and staff for the department. All told, Mon Health has invested nearly $1 million in developing nursing students at the university.
(The Fairmont State Board of Governors voted Goldberg its new chairman of the board. His term began July 1.)
Also, Goldberg said Mon Health’s affiliation agreement with Grafton City Hospital — inked in October 2019 — has worked out well.
“Before the agreement, they had two days cash on hand, and now they have 200 days,” he said.
Under the terms of the agreement, Grafton City Hospital will remain Grafton City Hospital to achieve operational cost efficiencies through the use of Mon Health business support services, clinical affiliation and purchasing power. Grafton City Hospital will continue to focus on the health care needs of its community under the oversight of its local board of directors.
Further south in Lewis County, Goldberg said the health system is looking at possibly replacing the building that houses Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital in Weston. The hospital, which is part of Mon Health, is antiquated.
He said the system owns 100 acres just off the Weston exit off Interstate 77, where the facility could be built. The economic feasibility of the project is still being studied, he added.