Colleen Rowan Photo Bishop Mark Brennan speaks at the April 9 celebration of Wheeling Hospital becoming a full member of the West Virginia University (WVU) Health System. Seated, from left, are Douglass Harrison, CEO of WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital; Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Health System; and Dr. E. Gordon Gee, president of WVU.
By Colleen Rowan WHEELING—Bishop Mark Brennan has had two main goals for Wheeling Hospital since he became bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston: “Keep this hospital open and viable to serve the people in this area, and strengthen and improve it wherever possible. Secondly, keep it Catholic in identity and practice.” Wheeling Hospital becoming a full member of the West Virginia University (WVU) Health System accomplishes these goals, the bishop said in his remarks at the April 9 celebration of the agreement. “The transfer of ownership of hospital operations to the WVU Health System … expands Wheeling hospital’s access to specialists connected with the university hospital’s health system, modernizes many internal operations, and it does respect the tradition of Catholic healthcare.” The WVU Health System, Wheeling Hospital, and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston formalized their agreement to make Wheeling Hospital a full member of the WVU Health System March 31. The agreement is built on trust and mutual respect, Douglass Harrison, CEO of WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital, said at the celebration which gathered state and local dignitaries, medical staff, and employees in front of the hospital’s main entrance. “It’s an agreement that was developed with that solid foundation of relationship, trust, and knowing the strengths that each side brought to this table,” Harrison said. Bishop Brennan began by offering the invocation. In his remarks, he spoke of the ethos of Catholic healthcare: special concern for the poor, the basic principle of do no harm, and to see medicine in a holistic manner. Though this agreement, the bishop said, the WVU Heath System benefits from its association with “a worldwide provider of healthcare, the Catholic Church.” Bishop Brennan said that church provides about 26% of healthcare in the world with 5,500 hospitals; 16,000 specialized centers; and 18,000 clinics. Two-thirds of the 26% in healthcare provided by the church are in developing countries, the bishop said, and there are roughly 620 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. Catholic healthcare, he continued, is rooted in generous care of the neediest and the poorest. “It’s religious and ethical directives embody wisdom coming right from the ancient world through to today,” he said, noting that Catholic healthcare has produced innovators such as Abbot Gregor Mendel, Augustinian priest and founder of the modern science of genetics. “I hope that we can recognize that this relationship is a two-way street… and that we can do good for the people of the Upper Ohio River Valley,” Bishop Brennan said. Bernie Twigg, who is serving as board chair of WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital and WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, began his remarks by welcoming the doctors, nurses, technicians, and employees of Wheeling Hospital to the WVU Health System family. “This is a grand day,” Twigg said. “Healthcare is transformed in this Upper Ohio Valley.” Twigg spoke of the transformation that happened to Reynolds Memorial Hospital when it joined the WVU Health System, going from a small community hospital to one that earned $10 million last year, “while providing service lines that people in Marshall County never imagined.” “Those same service lines will be made available to Wheeling Hospital and given its strong Catholic foundation it will continue to dote on the poor and make the less fortunate the focus of their efforts,” said Twigg, who is a member of St. Jude Parish in Glen Dale. “I am encouraged by this association. I look forward to working with all of you. …. We have strong board representation from Ohio County, and we all look forward to this association.” The new WVU Medicine signs now on different parts of the hospital’s facade look good, “but you’ll notice that there’s still a cross on this building,” said Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Health System. It was gratifying for him to be at the hospital that day, he said, “as partners with an important vision to make this a long-term successful Catholic entity inside WVU medicine.” Also speaking at the celebration were Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Dr. E. Gordon Gee, president of WVU; and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. As a full member of the WVU Health System, Wheeling Hospital will be part of a broad, integrated network of doctors, hospitals, clinics, and specialized institutes across West Virginia, Southwestern Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and Ohio. Today, the WVU Health System, which operates under the brand WVU Medicine, has more than 20,000 employees; 2,815 providers; 22 member, managed, and affiliate hospitals; and more than 2.5 million patient visits annually. As Wheeling Hospital joins the Health System, a new community Board of Directors will begin service in support of the hospital. In addition to Bishop Brennan, Harrison, Twigg, and Wright, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital board members include: Mark Benson, M.D., president of Wheeling Hospital Medical Executive Committee; Todd Clossin, president and CEO of WesBanco; Wheeling Mayor Glenn F. Elliott, Jr.; Kenneth Mason, community leader; Ohio County Commissioner Don Nickerson; Don Rigby, community leader; Jessica Rine, executive director of the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley; and Thomas Wack, M.D., county health officer, Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health. The WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, WVU Medicine Children’s, and WVU Medicine Emergency Medicine already operate programs at Wheeling Hospital, and the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute opened a clinic at the hospital in late 2020. The WVU Cancer Institute is also actively working with Wheeling Hospital to open a clinic on its campus. After Bishop Brennan offered a closing prayer, the ceremony ended with the raising of the WVU Medicine flag in front of the hospital. The flag was raised by Joyce McCorder, a retired employee of the Wheeling Hospital Dietary Department who worked at the hospital for 39 years. She is a COVID-19 survivor who spent 29 days at Wheeling Hospital last year in the ICU on a ventilator. As her recovery progressed, she was then moved to the pandemic unit and then spent two months in rehabilitation. McCorder did not see her family for 90 days. After recovering from COVID, she decided it was time to retire and spend time with her family. McCorder raised the WVU Medicine flag as the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra played “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”