It is a shame that the proposal to build a new United Hospital Center has become such a political issue. And it's especially galling that Clarksburg City Council has fanned the flames.
The hospital's request for a Certificate of Need will be the subject of a hearing before the state Health Care Authority next week, and it is likely that several members of City Council will travel to Charleston to voice opposition to building the new facility along Interstate 79.
That is a shame. Council, of course, says it has no problem with a new hospital; it just doesn't want it to move out of the city limits.
Council members talk about the need to spur development in western Clarksburg and Harrison County. They talk of a "planned" access road that has been long in talk but non-existent in reality.
The bottom line is that now that it is politically appealing, some state lawmakers seem to be waving a magic wand to appease those who want the access road and, subsequently, the hospital to stay in place.
Asking area residents to stake the future of quality, affordable health care on what we perceive to be merely a pipe dream at best is not a bet we're willing to take.
United Hospital Center has made a case for a new building, as well as the need to relocate, to remain competitive in the future.
The 40-year-old building on the present site does not lend itself to easy improvements, and enlarging it is almost as costly as building a new hospital.
And if the hospital remains at its current location, even with a new access road, it remains vulnerable to any other hospital that tries to develop along the I-79 Corridor.
Unfortunately, there's a perception that a not-for-profit hospital like UHC will always be there. But that is far from the truth. Only through great management has UHC thrived and does it stand ready to be a leading force in the health-care industry in the future.
The issue should not be where UHC goes or whether it stays in Clarksburg. The issue must focus on affordable, quality health care in this region.
Do we want a modern, vital hospital with a wide array of services, or do we want an old, aging facility restricted by size and space?
Council has passed two resolutions seeking to keep the hospital within the city. It has tried to portray the hospital as a villain.
United Hospital Center is far from a villain. It is one of the top hospitals in the state in terms of care and affordability. It has a track record those battling it can only envy.
We as a community need to get behind this project, for it can vastly improve health care in this region for generations to come.