PARKERSBURG - It was a day of coming together Tuesday as Parkersburg's two hospitals were officially joined under one entity and became a regional medical center.
Community leaders, hospital officials, employees and the public came together at both Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital for the unveiling and dedication of the new Camden Clark Medical Center with its Memorial Campus and St. Joseph's Campus.
Last September, officials with West Virginia United Health System (WVUHS) announced their intent to purchase St. Joseph's while affiliating with Camden-Clark, bringing both together under one organization. The merger officially went into effect at midnight Monday.
Mike King, Greg Smith, Tom Jones talk to News
''We have plenty of reason to rejoice today, because today the people from our community, from our St. Joseph's Campus, from our Memorial Campus and from West Virginia United Health System have gathered to enter into a new era of health care with a new medical center with a new look,'' said Mike King, the CEO over the newly formed Camden Clark Medical Center. ''For decades, residents of this valley have asked over and over, 'Shouldn't our two hospitals work together?'
''Today, I have the pleasure to give that answer in the affirmative.''
The documentation has been finished and the bureaucratic hurdles have been overcome to join both hospitals into one medical center, King said to the many people who gathered outside the North Tower of the newly designated Memorial Campus and to about 150 administrators and employees of the new St. Joseph's Campus who gathered on the front lawn of that facility Tuesday afternoon, watching the announcement on a pair of big-screen televisions.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Tom Jones, president and CEO of West Virginia United Health System, talks Tuesday during a ceremony commemorating the merger of Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital into the Camden Clark Medical Center, with its Memorial Campus and St. Joseph’s Campus.
''We are going from being an area with two community hospitals to a city with one two-campus medical center affiliated with the state's largest health care system,'' King said. ''It not only positions us well for the changes and challenges coming in health care, but it brings much needed stability to both St. Joseph's and Camden-Clark.''
King spoke of the many challenges facing health care and how combining the two local hospitals will position this area in dealing with them and improve the efficiencies of their operations and provide a secure future for their employees. Joining with WVUHS will allow them to expand and enhance their services, he said.
''This is a better way,'' King said of the two hospitals joining together. ''It is true we will see some changes as we work together to make a stronger medical center, but one thing will never change, our undying commitment to seek the highest quality care for our patients and their families.''
Larry Mallory, chairman of the Board of Directors of Camden Clark, said the merger process has been a labor of love that finally came to fruition.
''With our joining of (WVUHS) we are now one health care facility, no longer standing alone and providing for the health needs in our community,'' he said.
Tom Jones, president and CEO of WVUHS, said there will be opportunities to bring in new services, along with education and research at the new facility.
''As I look back at the challenges we faced, it has been well worth the effort,'' he said. At the end of the ceremony, at both hospitals banners were unfurled and flags were raised announcing the Camden Clark Medical Center.
There also was a balloon release with purple and gray balloons, the purple signifying the combination of Camden Clark's signature blue color and St. Joseph's signature red color.
People at both campuses were pleased with the merger becoming official Tuesday.
''People are really excited,'' said Kim Couch, Camden Clark Foundation director. ''It is the potential we will have. When we joined together there is so much we can do as one team. Everyone is excited by the possibility.''
Sister Joan Kreyenbuhl, vice president of mission for St. Joseph's, said the merger is a great opportunity to increase health care in this area and make the community a healthier one.
''For that I'm grateful," she said.
St. Joseph's has a long history in Parkersburg, celebrating its 111th year, and she hopes it will be another step forward for the hospital.
"The Sisters started this tradition and we hope that that continues on," she said.
"I think it is a very important day," Candace Jones, director of physician services at St. Joseph's, said Tuesday. "By combining these two health care facilities in our community, we've essentially taken the best of the best to offer health care to our community and becoming the third largest medical center in the state means a lot," she said.
"I think we all knew this was going to happen one day, the two hospitals coming together. Today's that big day and we're all very excited. I think it can only be positive for our patients, of course, employees and the entire community," said Michelle Gillespie, director of human resources at St. Joseph's.
Jill Parsons, who became president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley in December after several years as a vice president at St. Joseph's, sees the merger as a wonderful opportunity for the employees, community and patients in the Mid-Ohio Valley. And "as everybody's referred to it, a long time coming and it will be very exciting to see where this goes for the future," she said.
As chamber president, Parsons believes the consolidation of the two hospitals into one medical center shows the stability of health care and those services for the community.
"It means a lot to the existing businesses to know that they have these types of services available at home here in town. For new businesses that are considering coming to the area, that's one of the first things they look at, to see what does our school system look like and what does health care look like in the community," Parsons said.
"I feel that it really shows that Parkersburg is a progressive town and that we invest in the people and the services that we have locally," she said.