Churches oppose threatened closure of John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center

Sarah Marino |, Times West Virginian, Fairmont
·4 min read

Feb. 28—FAIRMONT — Members of the Marion County faith community have voiced opposition to a bill that calls for closing the state's four long-term care facilities, including the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center.

The Fairmont Council of Churches approved a resolution opposing House Bill 2626 because health care is so vital to Marion County, said Council President Cathy Reed.

"If the John Manchin Sr. Center would be shut down think about those 30 or so patients that live there. Where would they go? Where would their families be able locally to place them without them having to go further away?" said Reed.

She said it's been bad enough due to the pandemic people have not been able to visit loved ones. She said these individuals are in a safe environment fairly close to their loved ones and it's affordable.

Council member DD Meighen said through the years the council has always cared for health initiatives.

"We've always taken a strong stance in terms of hospitals and support of workers and jobs and economic development within the medical field," said Meighen.

In 2014, the council lead an effort to keep Fairmont General Hospital open with an appreciation day, which Meighen said, was successful.

"I think that the history of faith and health care has been a very important one historically through the years and that's why we felt it was very important to make this statement this time coupled with so many other factors," said Meighen.

He said the condition of the building is in good shape, the employees are residents of Fairmont and Marion County for the most part and auxiliary services are also very important.

"The food distribution that the John Manchin Health Care Center provides is very helpful to the community," he said.

Meals on Wheels receives their meals from the center as well as the Marion County Senior Center. In addition to supporting these services, Meighen said the group is also supportive given the impact of the pandemic. The Manchin Center also operates a local health clinic for residents who do not health insurance or ability to pay for prescription drugs.

"Walk-in services have increased at the John Manchin Health Care Center as well as telehealth services by Zoom and other methods that citizens are being contacted by doctors and health care professionals," he said.

In the midst of the pandemic, Meighen said it's not the time to be thinking about closing health care facilities. He said the center also provides a lot of services for the unsheltered homeless and for those who otherwise who would have no opportunity to receive health care services.

"The loss of jobs and loss of services is going to devastate even more what the legislature is hoping to do and that is to save money. It's actually going to cost more money in the long run because there's going to be more people in need of assistance," he said.

Meighen said there are 25 churches in the council and some perform volunteer work at the Manchin Center. Meighen said two years ago Majority Whip Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor County, was approached about closing the Manchin Center. Meighen said she denied it was not her intention to close the John Manchin Center.

"We sent letters to her because our intention is as the Majority Whip of the House of Delegates now as a Republican, she has sway, a lot, over what's going to happen. We think with her position as a registered nurse at the Grafton City Hospital she ought to be aware of the facility at Fairmont and would be one of the great spokespersons to keep it open," said Meighen.

Meighen said he thinks there's a lot of support for keeping the clinic open and believes the churches can have a moral and spiritual impact on the legislature.

Barbara Grigg is not a member of the Council of Churches but drafted a letter on behalf of her pastor, Rev. Mark Staples of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmont. Grigg lives within Summers' district, which covers a portion of Marion County.

"I like to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem," said Grigg.

Grigg said just by talking with those within the churches she saw that this issue was important to a lot of people. She said why throw something out without making provisions for those who might need it. She said she wanted to provide information so that the legislature could make good decisions in government.

House Bill 2626 calls for closing the state's nursing homes by Jan. 1, 2022 and transitioning their employees to other jobs, where available, within state government, while assisting the nursing residents find other living arrangements.

Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549