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CURRENT STORIES


UHC land deal stirs interest in region

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

While no decision has been made when or if United Hospital Center will move from its current Clarksburg location, some officials in surrounding counties are eagerly awaiting a new hospital.

Last week, UHC President Bruce Carter announced that the hospital's board of directors had approved the purchase of about 125 acres of land near the FBI complex.

Carter called the purchase a "hedge against the future." He has said in the past that a cramped campus and increased growth may force the hospital to eventually relocate. The land was purchased so there would be an adequate site available if and when the decision is made.

While some health care and ambulance service officials in surrounding counties are looking forward to having a new hospital along Interstate 79, at least one is not.

Doddridge County Commissioner Ora Ash has been upset with the idea since he first heard it. Ash said moving the hospital will make it harder on residents of his county and the western portion of Harrison County.

"We expect them to move. I think the underlying decision has been made already," Ash said. "Our concerns have been the same all along. The new hospital will be farther away from Doddridge County and moved to a dangerous, congested area on a major highway."

Carter has said that moving the hospital is only one option. Other possibilities are renovating the existing facility or constructing a free-standing outpatient clinic to free up room in the existing hospital.

Ash said leaving the hospital in place and building a clinic would be a better option for Doddridge County.

"Mostly we're concerned with trauma and true emergency situations, so that would help," he said. "We need to have something on this side of Bridgeport Hill."

Others, however, say a new hospital along I-79 would be ideal.

"It would definitely make our jobs a lot easier," said Amy Summers, president of the Taylor County Emergency Squad. "We would have faster transport times and better access."

Rebecca Phillips, office manager for the Barbour County Emergency Squad, said she wasn't aware of any plans to move the hospital but agreed that being closer to I-79 would be good for ambulance services.

UHC is the primary provider for Harrison and Doddridge counties, Carter said. UHC also sees patients from eight other secondary counties -- Barbour, Taylor, Randolph, Upshur, Lewis, Ritchie, Braxton and Webster.

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