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Date set for FGH appeal

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CHARLESTON -- A March 23 hearing has been set for Fairmont General's appeal of state approval for United Hospital Center's plans to relocate.

In October, the state Health Care Authority approved United Hospital Center's $265 million plan to construct a replacement facility along Interstate 79 in Bridgeport.

In late November, FGH officials announced that they planned to appeal that decision, shortly after for-profit Triad Hospitals Inc. of Texas backed out of its deal with FGH for a similar replacement facility.

The appeal will be heard by an administrative law judge from the Bureau of Employment Programs' Office of Judges.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in the judges' offices, across the street from the Health Care Authority's offices.

Although it's difficult to pin down a time frame for a decision, they normally take a couple of months, said Kay Myers, a paralegal with the Health Care Authority.

Both sides will have a chance to make oral arguments and then the judge will review the transcripts, Myers said.

But that still might not be the end of the process.

Either side can appeal the administrative law judge's decision to the Kanawha County Circuit Court. The matter could even go as high as the state Supreme Court of Appeals.

In all, the appeal process could drag out to a year or more.

FGH officials have long contended that UHC's plan to put the new hospital at Jerry Dove Drive, just about five miles from the Marion County line, is part of an overall plot to drive the smaller hospital out of business.

But UHC President Bruce Carter has countered that UHC's Certificate of Need does not anticipate any increase in market share from Marion County.