The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 19, 2013

DHHR Official: Several options available to fix Jackie Withrow Hospital problems

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Both the Department of Health and Human Resources and the State Historic Preservation Office responded moderately to a legislative audit calling for the Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley to be torn down and a new facility to be built in its place.

The Register-Herald reported Feb. 11 that the legislative audit indicates it would cost more than $6 million less to tear down the structure and build a new one.

The report finds Jackie Withrow Hospital to be too large and in need of a vast number of upgrades to lower heating and operating costs.

Marsha Dadisman, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which manages the long-term care facility, said the department “agrees that these issues need to be prioritized and a plan developed for immediate action.”

She said the department agrees with the issues raised by the audit but noted that there are several options available to them to fix the problems.

“We want to be sure to take into consideration the benefits and detriments to patients, families, employees and the community where the hospital is. We want to consider all these aspect when we develop our plan.” Dadisman said.

Caryn Gresham, director of communications for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History noted that the hospital, formerly Pinecrest Sanitarium, established under FDR’s New Deal in 1927 as a facility for tuberculosis treatment, is not currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, although the facility is eligible.

“The State Historic Preservation Office is aware it is eligible and it is our goal to preserve and protect any building that is historically significant to the community, state and nation, like this one,” she said.

She added the preservation office will work with anyone who wants to nominate the facility to get it on the register.

In 2010, DHHR used funding for historic structures through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to replace Jackie Withrow Hospital’s boiler, Gresham added.

At that time DHHR sent the Division of Culture and History a letter to ensure the work they would be doing would not have an adverse effect on the structure and to complete their eligibility, she said.

The state, however, has never received a formal nomination for the facility to be listed on the national register.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com