Marion County Chamber of Commerce voices opposition to House Bill 2626

·3 min read

Mar. 2—FAIRMONT — Members of the Marion County business community have come forward to oppose a West Virginia House of Delegates proposal to shutter the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center.

The Marion County Chamber of Commerce released a statement Monday opposing House Bill 2626, which would close four long-term care facilities, including the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center.

The Chamber of Commerce points to the fact that many individuals throughout the region rely on the meals provided by the Health Care Center, as well as the 40 underprivileged senior residents of the facility who will be left with nowhere to go.

The letter was signed by Tina Shaw, chamber president, Jonathan Board, chairman and Nick Fantasia, chair of governmental affairs, and former mayor of Fairmont.

The John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center provides meals to the local senior centers, as well as meals for the Meals-on-Wheels program.

"It goes beyond just in-patient care," said Shaw. "The center is used by numerous community organizations and it's important."

A concern shared among Chamber members was what would fill the void left behind, were the bill to pass.

"The direct impact would fall on the thousands of seniors who rely on the services this center provides." said Fantasia. "As it stands, there's no plan in place for who will pick up the pieces."

Shaw pointed out that many older members of the Fairmont community rely on the services provided by the center.

"They may not have family around, they may have no one to turn to," said Shaw. "I think this center has been vital in ensuring that the whole county and whoever needs those services are provided those services."

Along with being a nursing home, the Manchin Center operates a free health care clinic for those who are uninsured.

"It's very shortsighted," said Board. "It's easy to point out problems, it's much harder to come forward with meaningful solutions. This bill does not, it merely says, 'here's the problem.' The solution it presents is not a viable solution on any level."

The bill states that each of the four state-run homes are in need of costly repairs that "are unsustainable." However, local delegates who toured the Manchin Center shortly after the bill was introduced out of committee in Charleston, toured the center and found it to be in quality shape.

The house bill in question puts the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center in a list of three other long-term care facilities, stating they are not safe for residents. Nick Fantasia says that's simply not true.

"The fact (the facility) is pigeonholed into the category of dilapidated is just untrue," said Fantasia. "The facility was recently outfitted with modern HVAC systems, new roofing and windows. So, calling it unsafe is just untrue."

Fantasia went on to say the center is positive for the state's budget and the community.

Board said the bill takes multiple care facilities and attempts to call them the same, pointing to that as the bill's biggest fault.

"You can't treat Preston [County] like you treat Marion County. These are very different facilities," said Board. "What works in one of these facilities might be entirely different than what occurs in Marion County and we're trying to bring that to the forefront."

House Bill 2626 calls for closing the state's nursing homes by Jan. 1, 2022 and transitioning their employees to other jobs, where available, within state government, while assisting the nursing residents find other living arrangements.

Reach David Kirk at 3043672522.