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Politics could be behind clinic’s closing

May 19, 2019

Three possibilities exist to explain eliminating the John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center in Fairmont, according to a Marion County delegate. A trio of that county’s Democrat legislators think the reason is not the one given by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

We mentioned this clinic a few weeks ago. Those familiar with the facility generally heap praise on it for many services rendered to the community. Del. Mike Angelucci, D-Marion, says the clinic is worthy if for no other reason than “it provides vital health services to people who cannot afford to pay.”

Citizens fighting to keep the clinic open cite Angelucci and his fellow 50th District Democrats for trying to save the facility’s services. They say when the three delegates learned of possible plans to close outpatient services at the Manchin Center, they immediately went into action.

This came as those served by the center and their supporters organized protests that eventually made it to the streets.

Angelucci thinks there are only three real “excuses” for why DHHR wants to discontinue outpatient services.

“First,” he said, “the CEO (Michelle Crandall) wants to please Charleston. They’ve wanted it closed for some time. Second, she wants to please Governor Justice by eliminating a service that carries the Manchin name. Three, she wants rid of employees she doesn’t like.”

Angelucci says, in fact, all three issues may be a part of the closing decision and he clearly blames Crandall for most of the problem. He says the CEO has a “terrible rapport” with the employees and is “eternally vindictive.”

Records show that Crandall has had run-ins with some employees. According to the delegate, most of the major disagreements have been with employees in the outpatient section. “It’s definitely been a problem under this CEO. One employee filed a grievance and the administrative law judge ruled there was a hostile work environment. But the CEO was not disciplined or terminated for her actions.” Angelucci said.

The three legislators have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for, among other things, Crandall’s emails to DHHR in Charleston. “If we find she has been urging the closing of this facility, I think it will become a real problem for her,” said the delegate.

For its part, DHHR has issued press releases saying it is considering closing the services because they are duplicated in the community. “They might or might not be duplicated,” Angelucci said, “but they are not free elsewhere. Poor people can’t afford them.”

The delegate said state officials and Crandall give varying sums as the amount of money the outpatient services lose annually. “One says $150,000; the other $200,000, which even if true is a small price to pay for health services for 200 people each month.”

The most intriguing part of the story seems to be that anyone would think the sitting governor would sacrifice health care for poor people in exchange for eliminating the Manchin name from a public building. Let’s hope we are speculating too much.

Cook Political Report, one of the national organizations that predicts election results, has none of West Virginia’s three congressional districts competitive for 2020.

Even though nobody of stature has announced intentions to run against any of the Republican incumbents, that is not likely to change even if someone does. It is a truism that incumbents are difficult to beat. This is especially true the longer they serve.

Rep. Carol Miller in the 3rd is most junior of those in office as she will, presumably, be seeking a second term in 2020. The margin by which Miller dispatched her left-wing Democrat opponent in 2018 will likely persuade most serious Democrats not to oppose her next time.

Rep. David McKinley has served in the 1st long enough to be considered solidly entrenched. Meanwhile, Rep. Alex Mooney has now overcome his “carpetbagger” image and is a heavy favorite.

Speaking of Congresswoman Miller, she had a visit from Cabell County Commissioner Kelli Sobonya in Miller’s Capitol offices recently. The pair, good friends from their days as state legislators, discussed cooperative efforts between the commission and Congress on infrastructure, drug problems and other issues of concern, according to Sobonya.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or ronjgregory@gmail.com.

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