Monday, October 19, 2009

Will Valley Health become a monopoly similar to Carilion of the Roanoke Valley

To finally bring a conclusion to this informative mission after what I have learned of what is going on down in the Roanoke Valley with Carilion, one can easily develop a similar perception of what is taking place with the rapid growth of Valley Health in the Shenandoah Valley/surrounding regional area.  That why it’s important that the citizenry of the Shenandoah Valley be more informed on Valley Health.


It’s well known that Valley Health’s mission is to have a large presence in the regional area.  Valley Health has not hidden that fact with the $178,000,000 Winchester campus expansion, while continuing to purchase much smaller regional hospitals that appear to have a standard price tag of $30 million for a new facility.


Valley Health’s plan to build a new $30 million hospital in Morgan County, WV  to replace War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs is currently getting resistance from West Virginia University Hospital officials.


WVUH-East President Albert Pilkington has a differing opinion of the events. He has been in this position since January 2009.

"We asked for the hearing because we had serious concerns about the scope of the project, and who put the bid package together," he said. "We felt the size hospital asked for in the bidding package did not fit with the state health plan or our own analysis, and we had additional questions whether we could bid on a project or specs that were designed by an unknown party."

Pilkington said WVUH-East wants to ensure a fair and independent bidding process.



WVU-H East offers more than ‘bus stop’
By Albert Pilkington III, president and CEO, WVU Hospitals-East, Martinsburg
Valley Health has spent a lot of money and time to develop a PR campaign aimed at discrediting our interest in providing health care for the citizens of Morgan County. Beyond all the rhetoric, I ask you to simply consider one basic concept. Do you want a hospital in Berkeley Springs or a medical bus stop for Valley Health?

Ultimately, that is the real question. Our approach will be the same as it has been in Jefferson County in that we believe in building and growing services within the community as opposed to the Valley Health model of using small hospitals as a feeding system for the big hospital in Winchester, Va.

If you are satisfied with driving to Winchester for the majority of your medical needs as if Berkeley Springs were a suburb of Winchester, then we are not your best choice. On the other hand, if you are interested in the development of your own unique community with services provided locally, then that is the approach we offer for health care.

Truly, beyond all the PR and rhetoric, this is the only real question at hand as both companies will give you a new building.




Below are other articles that have appeared in the Martinsburg Journal over the last month and half and I do not recall reading anything about this protest in any of our local media outlets: The Winchester Star, TV3-Winchester or the NVDaily.

(Correction 10/20/09, found NVD article: WV hospital project challenged, WVU-East puts brakes on plans for New War Memorial),
(Correction 10/21/09, found WincStar article: Valley Health's plans for aging WV hospital to get hearing)



Hospital hearing set for Oct. 6
By Erienne Greene, Journal Staff Writer
Posted September 27, 2009
http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/525721.html

 
Approval of hospital plans urged
A resolution is passed by Morgan panel
POSTED: September 25, 2009

http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/525622.html

 

Delay in hospital construction upsets commissioners
By Tricia Lynn Strader / Special to The Journal
POSTED: September 21, 2009

http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/525422.html

 
War Memorial construction delayed
WVU Hospitals files for hearing before panel
By Tricia Lynn Strader, Special to The Journal
POSTED: September 20, 2009
http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/525387.html



Another grave concern is “The Lucrative Life of a Nonprofit Hospital” which was a feature by Wall Street Journal blog reporter Jacob Goldstein on August 28, 2008.  Valley Health’s “charges” appear to be competitive at the present moment, but for how long?

“The Lucrative Life of a Nonprofit Hospital”
Jacob Goldstein, WSJ blogger
August 28, 2008
http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/08/28/the-lucrative-life-of-a-nonprofit-hospital/


ROANOKE, Va. -- In 1989, the U.S. Department of Justice tried but failed to prevent a merger between nonprofit Carilion Health System and this former railroad town's other hospital. The merger, it warned in an unsuccessful antitrust lawsuit, would create a monopoly over medical care in the area.

Nearly two decades later, the cost of health care in the Roanoke Valley -- a region in southwestern Virginia with a population of 300,000 -- is soaring. Health-insurance rates in Roanoke have gone from being the lowest in the state to the highest.

Nonprofit medical centers are big business these days. Carilion Health System, in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley, had profits of more than $100 million last year, Carilion is Roanoke’s dominant health-care player, and it charges high prices for some procedures — $4,727 for a colonoscopy, which is four to 10 times what a local endoscopy center charges, the article says. The area now has some of the highest health-insurance costs in the state.

Critics say big medical centers like Carilion use near-monopoly power to charge high prices; Carilion says it needs to charge more for some procedures to subsidize other parts of its business, such as care for the uninsured. And the hospital says an HCA-owned hospital in a nearby town offers competition.

Carilion has recently started buying up local medical practices in an effort to move to a multispecialty-clinic model. The hospital CEO says this arrangement will cut down on fragmentation and improve care.

But the move has alienated hundreds of local docs, who circulated a petition and launched a Web site. Those who haven’t sold their practices to the hospital say they’ve seen their referrals plummet.



This "Nonprofit Hospitals Flex Pricing Power" is a MUST read and pay attention the epic profit increases from 2003 through 2007.  Do you remember reading about Valley Health's epic increase from 2001 through 2005?  Yes, it was an eye popping 383% increase for that time period as exact figures for 2006, 2007 and now upcoming 2008 has been an unsuccessful challenge to obtain.
Nonprofit Hospitals Flex Pricing Power
In Roanoke, VA, Carilion’s Fees Exceed Those of Competitors;
The $4,727 Colonoscopy
Thursday, August 28, 2008
http://webreprints.djreprints.com/2017630549095.pdf


Since Valley Health is a not-for-profit, why are not their financial records readily available for public inspection.  Makes you wonder, is Valley Health is trying to hide something?  For example, review Lehigh Valley out of Allentown, PA as their financials are very much unguarded for the public to review:

IRS Form 990:
http://www.lvhn.org/downloads/lvhfinal07.pdf

Financials and Annual Reports:

http://www.lvhn.org/aboutus/Annual_Report_Archive/2008_Report_to_the_Community/2008 Financial_and_Operational_Report%7C4523


 

Below is a very informative video of Frank Cotter speaking to Citizens for Responsible Health-care of the Roanoke Valley speaking out against Carilion.




We are all grateful that Valley Health provides quality care for our regional area but everyone should have much concern about their growth to become the regional authoritarian of medical care and hope more individuals within the regional area will be keeping an eye on them while asking reasonable questions.


In closing, let’s all hope that Valley Health of the Shenandoah Valley doesn’t become a monopoly that is the perception of what Carilion has done within the Roanoke Valley.

1 comment:

Tierney said...

Valley Health Inc. a/k/a Valley Physician Enterprise has acquired or built numerous hospitals throughout our region. The list can be found here, http://www.valleyhealthlink.com/alllocations. Valley Health can provide any service, drug, device a person might need.
What is a monopoly? Valley Health is so large, who is minding the store, keeping standards up, weeding out negligent doctors? VPE does not self-regulate.

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