WEST VIRGINIA: Local Activists Protest Hospital Closures

Photo: Ohio Valley Medical Complex in Wheeling, West Virginia

By Mario Ginesta

Activists in Wheeling, WV have been organizing around the recent closures of several hospitals in the Ohio Valley region. The closures have resulted in over 1,000 workers being laid off and has limited the already scarce medical and mental health treatment options for people living in the area.

The past two months have been a chaotic scramble, as unemployed healthcare workers search for new jobs and existing hospitals and clinics seek to accommodate the influx of new patients.

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Activists in Wheeling hold an impromptu demonstration against the closure of medical facilities

Local activists have agitated against the closures by speaking with workers and patients, handing out fliers that identify the profit motive of health services under capitalism as the cause for the cutbacks. Activists also led a demonstration at the Stone Center Park, delivering an impromptu speech to a crowd, which pushed revolution against the capitalist system as the only viable solution to the current health crisis.

Alecto Healthcare Services closed the East Ohio Regional Hospital (EORH) in Martins Ferry, OH on September 28. This follows the closures of Ohio Valley Medical Center (OVMC) and Hillcrest, an in-patient mental health treatment facility, earlier in the month, despite promises from Alecto that both hospitals would remain open until October 7. The company cites a $37 million loss on investments as the reason for liquidating the two hospitals.

City and state officials have responded with disingenuous promises, amounting to no more than a band-aid for those deprived of work and health services and a slap on the wrist for Alecto. The company owes the City of Wheeling over $188,000 in unpaid water bills, despite a lucrative deal where city council spent $3 million making Alecto’s purchase of OVMC in 2017 more profitable by improving the hospital’s parking garage. The council had promised that residents would continue having access to medical and mental health care and see a boost in tax revenue to help repair the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

This case shows how city and state politicians first serve at the pleasure of bourgeois investors by protecting their investments, then by refusing to punish them even when they engage in malicious fraud, and finally by shielding the bourgeoisie from the wrath of workers and the masses. As organizing against these closures continues, this buffer that protects the owners will be tested.