McClure outlines hospital consolidation process

PARKERSBURG – The emergency department and inpatient rooms at Camden Clark Medical Center’s St. Joseph’s Campus will be closed by Aug. 19, hospital CEO David McClure told members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday.

Speaking at the club’s regular meeting at the Blennerhassett Hotel, McClure addressed the status of the accelerated consolidation of the campuses, which Camden Clark announced in May.

“Three years ago, our plan was to slowly consolidate the two hospitals together,” said McClure, who became CEO upon predecessor Mike King’s retirement on June 30.

As separate hospitals, Camden Clark and St. Joseph’s at one time had about 400 beds apiece. More recently, there are usually less than 200 inpatients between both campuses, said Tim Brunicardi, director of marketing and public affairs for Camden Clark.

McClure attributed the change in volume to Parkersburg’s population decreasing over several decades and changes brought about by technology and techniques, resulting in shorter and fewer inpatient stays.

“With all that in mind, we really felt we could not sustain two very large hospitals,” he said.

With inpatient volumes declining faster than expected thanks in part to passage of the Affordable Care Act and the financial pressure of maintaining both campuses, the decision was made to move forward with the consolidation sooner than originally planned. McClure said voluntary reduction in force incentives were offered to employees who were near retirement or looking to change careers, but the consolidation still will result in the loss of about 50 jobs from service positions up to management.

The initial announcement estimated the potential job loss at around 60.

“We don’t have a final number yet,” McClure said.

Keeping the former St. Joseph’s Hospital open costs Camden Clark about $10 million a year, McClure said. Based on its newer construction and flatter geography providing more opportunities for expansion, it was decided that “the Memorial campus really was our future,” he said.

The emergency department at St. Joseph’s remains open and sees about 40 patients a day, McClure said. Renovations at the Memorial Campus have expanded the capacity of that emergency department by 15 beds to 40.

“That will accommodate the population that traditionally went to the St. Joseph’s Campus for emergency services,” McClure said.

Specialties that have split time between the campuses are in the process of moving. Monday was the first day for neurosurgery to operate solely out of the Memorial Campus. Orthopedics will join that unit in about two weeks.

Cardiac services will be the last to make the transition, at which point the inpatient and emergency units will close, McClure said. Orthopedic, neurosurgery and vascular patients will have space on the newly renovated fourth floor of the Memorial Campus’ north tower.

The 33 beds on that floor will all be single-occupancy rooms. McClure said he’d like to convert more semi-private rooms to private ones going forward.

The new fourth-floor space will be showcased with an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

The St. Joseph’s Campus won’t be completely vacant after August, McClure said. The professional office building is full, and the first floor will still be open for some services.

“The campus won’t stay empty for a long time,” McClure said.

His goal is to have the campus occupied again within a year, hopefully in a way that advances the “continuum of care” in the region.

Highmark West Virginia President Fred Earley said a consolidation of the hospitals has been necessary for a while, citing a failed merger discussion 15 to 20 years ago.

“I think some of the pains you’re going through now are probably long overdue,” he said to McClure after he spoke Monday.