MADISON — On Friday, Sept. 4, U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) toured the new Boone Memorial Hospital (BMH), which is currently under construction in Madison.
“This new facility looks great,” Jenkins said. “It’s a honor to be in Boone County and to take a look at this amazing project. What you have here is magnificient.”
The tour included the existing hospital and the new hospital’s construction site.
“We are very excited about this project and what it means to the future of our community,” said hospital COO Mark Linville.
In July 2011 the BMH Board of Trustees (now known as the Board of Directors) unanimously agreed to hire a design-build company to allow BMH to move forward with building a brand new hospital.
In September 2012, the USDA Rural Development program approved a $31.8 million Community Facility Direct Loan to build, equip and furnish the new hospital. Community Facility Direct Loans help develop essential community facilities in rural areas with up to 20,000 in population, according to the USDA.
“This new hospital is the biggest news for Madison in the past 50 years,” said Madison Mayor Sonny Howell, who also attended the event.
Linville said the new $34.3 million hospital will have 25 inpatient beds, patient rooms, pharmacy, chemo and IV therapies, pharmacy, the latest in radiology, an expanded emergency room, lab, physical therapy and more.
“We will go from an approximately 27,000 square feet facility to a 77,000 square feet facility,” Linville said.
The hospital’s emergency room sees about 18,000 patients a year.
Hospital CEO Virgil Underwood said the new hospital expects to see increased traffic and create additional jobs, as well as economic development for the area.
“This hospital is being built on a good foundation of solid people and we anticipate that having very positive effects in our community,” Underwood said.
Boone Memorial has no room to add specialists or surgery rooms. Because it is designated as a critical access hospital, it can have a maximum of 25 beds, which it does.
“Our cirtical access hospital designation should help acceleration of our depreciation to help us pay off the debt sooner,” Linville explained. “We are looking to also have chemo treatment access here as well, which currently the closest place is in Charleston.”
Boone Memorial Hospital first opened its doors in 1964 and has been providing health care to Boone County and the surrounding area ever since. The new hospital project is estimated to be completed sometime in 2016.
Following the tour, Rep. Jenkins was part of a roundtable dicussion with hospital and community leaders, including local physician and state Senator Dr. Ron Stollings (D-Boone), state House of Representative Joshua Nelson (R-Boone), Madison Mayor Sonny Howell, Danville City Manager Josh Barker, Madison City Manager and Police Chief Chet Burgess, the hospital’s administration, and several other Boone County dignitaries.
The discussion included topics such as economic development, coal, healthcare and the drug crisis plaguing the region.
“I am here to hear your concerns and thoughts about issues important to Boone County,” Jenkins said.
Boone County Commissioner Mickey Brown told Jenkins about the devestating effects of the loss of coal severance tax money as well as general tax revenue collections in the county.
“Boone County is losing coal mining jobs as well as many coal mining companies,” Brown said. “We are going to have to make cuts and layoffs, if things continue the way they are going. Small businesses in our county are feeling the effects as well.”
Jenkins said he is a member of the Appropriations Committee and one way he is fighting what he called “the war on coal” by the Barack Obama administration was to cut the budget of the “over-reaching Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We are using the power of the purse strings,” he said. “The EPA had money budgeted for a theatrical performance on climate change and we said no. They had money budgeted for lawyers to fight lawsuits filed against them regarding their overreaching regulations and we cut their budget by $700 million. We still have a big fight ahead, but I will continue to fight for coal and coal miners.”
Jenkins said he believes the Obama administration should be fighting the war on drugs.
“Our communities have been ravaged by drugs, so we added federal monies to help local law enforcement in the battle,” he said.
Jenkins said he spent 15 years in the healthcare field as a doctor and understands that good healthcare is vital in rural communities.
“It’s the cornerstone of a good, healthy community,” he said.
Delegate Nelson called the new hospital “the largest economic development project in Boone County” and said its success is crutial to the future of the area.
“We need to have vision on a local level to create products, businesses and services that will diversity our economy and bring good jobs to the county,” Nelson said. “We must make products and services utilizing the efforts of the Internet and other modern way of marketing the area.”
Nelson also spoke about the need for a sober living facility in the county and the current efforts to bring one to Boone County.
“We must be more proactive and help those working hard to bring a sober living facility here,” Nelson said. “Currently we have inadequate drug and alcohol recovery and treatment in Boone County.”
Delegate Michael Moffit said at a recent meeting of business leaders in the state at the Greenbrier, the top priority for businesses appeared to be the need for an educated and drug-free workforce.
“We must address the drug crisis if we are going to have a workforce to meet this priority need,” he said.
Other issues discussed included post-mine land development, including the need for infrastructure and access to a former Hobet mining property identified as having great potential for economic development. Also the need for better cell phone service and boardband internet access, as well as other education and quality of life issues.
“We just don’t have enough communication about issues and concerns in Boone County,” said community volunteer Trish Price. “We need to get more people involved and more proactive in the community.”
Mayor Howell said the City of Madison will be having a town hall meeting at the Madison Civic Center on Monday, Sept. 14, starting at 7 p.m. to discuss the concerns of its citizens.
“We want to hear from our citizens and how we can all come together to create a safer and better community,” he said. “The town hall meeting will be open to everyone and I urge everyone to attend.”
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at email@example.com or @fcpace62 on Twitter.