United Hospital Center's plan to build a bigger, better hospital with improved access is good news for North Central West Virginia.
The hospital announced this past week it will build on property it purchased that borders Interstate 79 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's fingerprint center. It will expand by more than 100,000 square feet and add at least 20 beds, with plans to open as early as 2005.
We believe a new hospital is a blessing in several ways.
Obviously technology has changed greatly since the original UHC was built in the 1960s.
A new complex will allow for greater use of the latest technology, as well as expanded services. Already there is talk of open-heart surgery being available locally, as well as other life-saving procedures currently not offered.
The new facility will also serve as a great enticement to lure highly skilled doctors. We've all heard how tough it is to find doctors willing to practice in West Virginia. High malpractice rates are only part of the problem. A new facility with the latest in technology has to be attractive to both new and experienced doctors.
The new complex will also establish UHC as a truly regional hospital. It currently serves residents of 10 counties, but its location isn't ideal on winding Davisson Run. Four-lane access will be more user-friendly.
And finally, a new hospital provides economic stimulus in the form of construction jobs, as well as new positions at the medical complex once it is completed.
We know there are concerns on the part of Clarksburg officials, who stand to lose several hundred thousand dollars in tax revenue once the hospital leaves the city limits.
And there are concerns from some on the western end of Harrison County, as well as Doddridge County, about traveling farther for emergency services.
We believe, working together, solutions to those concerns can be found.
Long term, we believe UHC's goal should be first and foremost to provide the best medical care for residents of North Central West Virginia. Building a new hospital with better access is a step in that direction, and we applaud UHC's administration and board for making the right decision for all of us.