BRMC

PRINCETON — An agreement has been signed for Princeton Community Hospital (PCH) to purchase Bluefield Regional Medical Center (BRMC).

The announcement was made Thursday afternoon after weeks of speculation.

The PCH Board of Directors approved the agreement June 27 and the transfer is expected to be complete later in this calendar year, subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions, a statement from PCH said.

“Our hospital was founded nearly 50 years ago thanks to the generosity, pride, vision, and determination of thousands of Mercer County citizens.,” said PCH Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey E. Lilley. “They saw the need for a modern, not-for-profit health care facility in their community. Through their donations, large and small, their vision became a reality. Because PCH has always put people and community wellness as a top priority, it has been able to attract and retain a highly skilled medical staff and invest in leading edge technology consistently through the years.”

Lilley said the acquisition of BRMC “will enable us to build upon and further modernize the quality of health care we provide to our patients and continue to enhance the service lines available to the region.”

He also had praise for BRMC.

“We applaud BRMC and the quality of care they have provided to the area since 1979 and we are excited about working together to build upon the strengths of both organizations,” he said. “Through the next few months, we will evaluate these options and collaboratively identify the best path that assures patients in our primary and secondary service areas are provided the highest quality health care they have come to expect.”

Lilley said those steps will “further develop and strengthen delivery of health care in our communities..”

“People and their commitment to make each facility the best it can be are what drive both organizations to be successful,” he said. “The agreement includes a commitment to hire substantially all employees in good standing when the transaction is complete.”

The day-to-day operations of BRMC will not be affected by the agreement, the statement from PCH said.

Both hospitals will work together to “ensure a smooth transition to new ownership.”

PCH said more information will be released once the transfer is complete and the hospital “will work to identify the appropriate communication plan to ensure that information is made available to the public when additional details are known.”

The City of Bluefield Board of Directors released a statement regarding the sale.

“The City of Bluefield has been made aware of the possible sale of Bluefield Regional Medical Center, and we are extremely pleased that this transaction will place BRMC under local ownership and will keep the hospital open,” the board said. “What is most important to us is that our citizens continue to have ready access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

The board said placing both of the county’s hospitals under common leadership is the “right approach to healthcare in this area.”

“It will enable healthcare planning to be undertaken on a regional basis, reduce duplication of services, and enable more resources to be dedicated to patient care,” the board said. “We believe that this transaction represents the best option for BRMC, its employees, and patients.”

However, the sale will have a financial impact on the city because BRMC is currently a for-profit hospital and must pay taxes to the city. Princeton Community Hospital is non-profit and is exempt.

“Despite the benefits of this sale, it is incumbent upon us to consider the effects of this transaction upon the city’s budget,” the board said. “Accordingly, city administration is analyzing these effects and will present this analysis to the board of directors in the next few weeks. We look forward to discussions with PCH regarding their plans for BRMC, and ways to offset this loss of revenue while continuing to provide excellent healthcare to the citizens of Bluefield.”

BRMC is owned by Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHS), based in Franklin, Tennessee. The company purchased the hospital in 2010.

Former CEO Derek Cimala said in a 2017 interview that the cumulative value of capital expenses at BRMC had surpassed over $40 million since 2010, with some renovation in every clinical department.

One of those upgrades was the cardiac catheterization lab which allows the hospital to perform angioplasty and stent replacement procedures and to accept transfers form other area hospitals that only perform diagnostic cardiac catheterizations, he said, adding that before the upgrade, patients had to be sent to Beckley or Roanoke.

The hospital also added a special procedures lab to allow interventional radiologists to perform procedures such as angiogram, angioplasty and stent replacement to other areas through the body, he added.

A fully renovated ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and CCU (Cardiac/Coronary Care Unit) had also been finished, complete with 17 beds and a nurse for every two patients.

Another upgrade that sets the hospital apart, he said, was a new MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine.

“We replaced our MRI unit,” Cimala said, with a price tag of about $1.5 million. “This one is designed to hold a 500-lb. patient,” the only one of its kind in the area.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com