What’s next for hospitals?

One door closes, another opens, a wise man once suggested to me. Let’s hope that can be the case with Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry.

There isn’t much time to find that new door and open it. California-based Alecto Healthcare Services plans to close the two local facilities on Oct. 7.

Obviously, the best outcome would be keeping both hospitals open. Roughly 1,200 people work there. About 900 of them are at OVMC.

It’s difficult to see how keeping them whole can be engineered. Bear in mind that when Alecto bought the hospitals two years ago, they were on the verge of collapse financially. Since then, the facilities have lost about $37 million, according to Alecto.

Here are some possibilities for saving parts of them:

* Wheeling officials want to build a new public safety building for the police and fire departments, at a cost of $14.5 million. Could money be saved through “adaptive reuse” of a building at OVMC for the purpose?

* Certain services offered by OVMC are critical. One is psychiatry. Another is the emergency room. Could they and/or other services be broken off from the full-service hospital and kept open?

* Addiction treatment is in demand throughout West Virginia and East Ohio, sad to say. Could parts of OVMC and EORH be converted to clinics offering that service?

* There seems to have been an increase in demand for apartments in downtown Wheeling during the past few years. One developer capitalized on that through adaptive reuse of an old building that became the Boury Lofts. Another is considering the same idea for the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building. Could all or part of the OVMC complex be converted to apartments? How about the old nurses’ residence?

Such an initiative could be made more attractive by use of state tax credits for reuse of historic buildings.

And, don’t forget, the OVMC complex has its own parking garage, connected by a skywalk over Chapline Street. City officials have $4 million available to make repairs to the garage.

* Now may be a good time to talk about decentralizing state government. Is there a state agency that could save money by moving some or all of its operations to the OVMC campus? Consider that modern communications mean the bureaucrats don’t necessarily have to be in the same city as the Capitol. Ask Gov. Jim Justice. He continues to live in Lewisburg, maintaining that he can do his job just as well as if he resided in the governor’s mansion.

* Finally, there’s the ethane cracker plant proposed for Dilles Bottom. PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Co. LTD continue to spend money on the project, though they haven’t announced a definite plan to build. If constructed, the cracker should attract spinoff manufacturers. Would PTT-Daelim or any of the spinoffs have use for some nice office space in Wheeling?

By the way, where’d the folks in California come up with the name “Alecto?” I don’t know — but in Greek and Roman mythology, Alecto was one of the three Furies. Her specialty was punishing humans guilty of moral sins.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.