Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 22, 2010

As citizens rally sales foes, PCH pledges transparency

PRINCETON — As the Princeton Community Hospital administration pledged transparency in any sales or merger negotiations, calls for clarity expanded and intensified throughout the city and county this week.

In a PCH letter addressed to the “citizens of the communities we serve” and published in both the Princeton Times and Bluefield Daily Telegraph, PCH CEO Wayne Griffith and Board of Directors Chairman W. Fred St. John wrote that they wished to “respond to questions, misperceptions and concerns expressed by citizens in our community about the strategic planning process we have undertaken.”

Over the last six months, concerns over potential sales negotiations have simmered throughout the community, since the PCH board introduced a motion to sign a letter of intent and begin collaboration between the non-profit PCH and the for-profit LifePoint Hospitals headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn.

The motion failed in an 8-5 vote last spring, but news that LifePoint was back in town surfaced after a closed-door, strategic planning session at PCH in December. This time, the negotiations allegedly include PCH, Bluefield Regional Medical Center, LifePoint and West Virginia United Health System.

Community fears reached a boiling point recently, when executive sessions were called and canceled at both PCH and BRMC and administrations in both places declined to comment on those sessions, with the exception of citing strategic planning as their purpose.

In last Friday’s Princeton Times, Griffith and St. John wrote that they understood the community had a vested interested in the future success of PCH and valued the community’s involvement.

“You can rest assured that no significant decision has been or will be made affecting the future of the hospital without full disclosure, transparency and opportunity for public input,” the letter read.

Just days later, however, the Times received a packet of information addressed to members of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce from the PCH medical staff indicating, “A vote on a letter of intent will be made by the members of the Princeton Community Hospital Board on Jan. 26, 2010. It is open to the public and starts at 5:30 p.m. Please come and bring up your concerns.”

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