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WVU Health eyes takeover of troubled 223-bed West Virginia hospital

WVU Health System would likely take over operations at the financially strapped Wheeling (W.Va.) Hospital after the 223-bed hospital finalizes a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, according to The Inter-Mountain.

Although Morgantown, W.Va.-based WVU Health System took over management of Wheeling Hospital last year, its day-to-day operations are still overseen by the hospital's board of directors, and it is still owned by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. 

But WVU Health is "ready, willing and able" to fully take over the hospital after the pending settlement is reached, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told the newspaper. Mr. Manchin has previously served as West Virginia's governor. 

Wheeling Hospital is working to settle a case brought by the U.S. Justice Department in March 2019,  that alleges the hospital and former CEO Ronald Violi violated the anti-kickback law. Mr. Manchin said the settlement amount is expected to be about $50 million. 

"My understanding is WVU wanted [Wheeling Hospital] to get the lawsuit behind them so they knew where they stood. Now there's a settlement coming up that we've heard about. When that is finalized, getting WVU in there will make a difference in the quality of care and the certainty of the hospital staying open," Mr. Manchin told The Inter-Mountain. 

The Justice Department settlement is only one of the hospital's many financial issues. Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison said last week the hospital faces an $18 million loss this fiscal year spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To shore up finances, it plans to reduce its workforce, starting with voluntary buyouts followed by an involuntary one if necessary. Voluntary pay cuts for administrators and physicians, suspension of retirement match contributions and capital spending cuts have already been implemented. 

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