WELCH, WV (WVNS) — One local hospital in a more remote part of Southern West Virginia will be getting some help from the state’s largest provider in healthcare.

After being under the control of the McDowell County Commission, Welch Community Hospital (WCH) will now join into the WVU Medicine network of hospitals, clinics, and physician practices.

Jennifer Justice worked at Welch Community for 20 years.

She said patients will be able to get better care once WVU takes over.

“But there was no specialty doctors available for people, sometimes when they need them, such as respiratory or cardiology, stuff like that,” said Justice. “I feel like with WVU taking over, they may have more access to those things instead of having to travel to Bluefield or Beckley to get those resources.”

This move will provide patients of WCH with easier access to specialized care and other critical care needs. The plan is to have WCH fully joined into the the WVU network by the end of 2023.

“This is a great plan for the people of McDowell County and its only acute-care hospital. As we assessed the ongoing healthcare needs and challenges in McDowell County and our own ability to continue managing a hospital so important to the community, we concluded having Welch Community Hospital join the WVU Medicine family made all the sense in the world – Albert Wright and his team are the experts at running hospitals and do a heck of a job.”

Governor Jim Justice (R-WV)

During his 2023 State of The State Address, Governor Justice spoke briefly on the move.

Clip from Governor Jim Justice’s 2023 State of The State Address

It is believed that once the Welch Community Hospital is fully involved within WVU Medicine that the resources gained will keep the hospital up and running for the foreseeable future.

“We’re excited to work with Governor Justice and his team, as well as officials from McDowell County, to have Welch Community Hospital join the WVU Health System. We’re also very excited by the idea of us extending our network of care into one of West Virginia’s most distressed areas to care for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. This really cuts to who we are as an organization and the spirit of our mission.”

Albert L. Wright Jr. | WVU Health System CEO

The collaboration of WCH and the WVU Medicine network comes with a more recent push towards better access to medical resources in Southern West Virginia. Princeton Community Hospital also joined the WVU Medicine network after an original management agreement in 2020.

“This will be a big win for the patients of Welch Community Hospital. Through a common electronic medical record, our providers and care teams across West Virginia and the broader region can communicate seamlessly and effortlessly while coordinating care more efficiently and safely.”

Michael Edmond, M.D., M.P.H., M.P.A., M.B.A., | Chief Medical Officer of the WVU Health System

However, not everyone will be happy with WVU taking over.

“I’m sure that there’s gonna be some negative effects to them,” said Justice. “But as far as the employees, the employees at Welch Community Hospital are hard working, they’re resilient and I think they will adjust nicely.”

Throughout the transition the State will begin to identify long-term care providers where the State could transfer the Hospital’s 59-bed long-term care unit.