Putnam General Hospital Closing

By: Scott Saxton
By: Scott Saxton
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Hospital Corporation of America officials told employees the hospital will close by the end of the month. This decision affects so many people. Not just employees who are still trying to take all this in, but also patients and the entire community.

HCA says it will attempt to transform the facility into an urgent care center.

Putnam General has been under scrutiny after several lawsuits against a former doctor, John King. At one point, HCA had a deal to sell the hospital to Lifepoint. The deal fell apart after months of negotiations.

People who work at Putnam General say they were shocked to hear word of the closing. In fact when they were called into the meeting, many employees thought they were going to be told the company had been sold, not that it was shutting down!

This decision affects so many people. Not just employees who are still trying to take all this in, but also patients and the entire community.

The company that owns Putnam General, HCA blames the closure largely on lawsuits filed against both the hospital and Dr. John king. He is accused of performing procedures at Putnam General he wasn't licensed for. Many of those cases are still pending.

But regardless of reason, the reaction is the same. Many don't understand how a hospital in one of the fastest growing areas of West Virginia can close.

Jessica Ray has been at Putnam General for 2 years, she states, “Most of us were in shock because we had no true warning it was going to come.”

Jessica Ray is a single mom and like many others who work here now has to start looking for another job.

Patients are just as upset.

Greg Wallace of Hurricane says, “I just hate to see it close because it forces people to go to Charleston and Huntington in critical conditions minutes mean a lot and I hope they do something to try and keep it open.”

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce plans on trying. Marty Chapman says this hospital's been a selling point in attracting new business and new residents.


Hospital officials today announced that all inpatient services at Putnam General Hospital would be discontinued by August 29, 2006, and that they would attempt to convert the facility to an urgent care center.

“Our painstaking assessment indicates that Putnam General cannot continue to be operated as an acute-care hospital,” said Margaret Lewis, president of HCA’s Capital Division. “Personal injury trial lawyers have filed lawsuits to block its sale to LifePoint and engaged in an ongoing campaign that has unfairly discredited our employees and affiliated physicians. These actions are devastating to the hospital, and they jeopardize our ability to continue providing high-quality inpatient care in the future.”

The timetable for converting Putnam General to an urgent care center will emerge during discussions between hospital officials and the West Virginia Health Care Authority, which has regulatory oversight over such facilities.

State approval is not required to discontinue inpatient services at the
facility by August 29.

Putnam General is licensed for 68 beds. Its employee turnover rate has been 33 percent since the beginning of 2005, and its average daily census has dipped to 36 patients, down from 56 in 2003. The hospital has lost $2.4 million since 2005 after being profitable in 2004 and 2003.

Beginning in 2004, personal injury trial attorneys representing more than 100 patients have filed lawsuits against Dr. John King and Putnam General. Dr. King was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced at Putnam General from November 2002 until June 2003. The hospital is vigorously defending itself against the suits and has adequate resources to cover claims if needed.

On July 14, 2005, HCA announced a definitive agreement had been reached to sell Putnam General and four other rural hospitals to LifePoint Hospitals, Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn. Attorneys for plaintiffs in the Dr. King cases intervened in the Certificate of Public Need process and asked the West Virginia Health Care Authority to block the sale. The deal closed on June 30, 2006, minus Putnam General.

“This is a sad day, but a necessary decision,” said Lewis. “The hospital’s employees and physicians have done their best during a very difficult time and they deserve tremendous credit. But we believe this decision is in the best interests of the community.”

Putnam General has approximately 300 full-time equivalent employees, all of whom will be paid and receive benefits as scheduled through September 30, 2006. Employees will also be provided with outplacement services.

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