Photo by: John McCabe/File
WHEELING — WVU Medicine’s latest investment in the city of Wheeling will bring a regional cancer center to the area, with hopes of re-energizing a part of Wheeling when Ohio Valley Medical Center closes its doors.
WVU Medicine announced in October that it would purchase the old OVMC campus, demolish the remaining vacant buildings there and replace them with a four-story state-of-the-art cancer center.
“This is a huge win for WVU Medicine, and I think it’s going to be a huge win for the city of Wheeling and for Ohio County,” said Albert Wright Jr., president and CEO of West Virginia University Health System. The morning of the announcement. “We are going to build a spectacular building and event here. It’s one we hope you and your loved ones never need, but when you do, we’ll be here.”
According to hospital officials, the new center will take about five years to complete. Plans for the facility call for 75,000 to 90,000 square feet of space.
An anticipated workforce of 150 employees will be brought in to handle an anticipated 40,000 patient visits annually.
Officials said the center would likely offer medical oncology, radiation oncology and mammography services, a melanoma center, a specialty pharmacy, telemedicine capabilities, multidisciplinary tumor boards and academic research facilities.
According to WVU Medicine, West Virginia has the second highest cancer death rate in the United States, making the future facility an important addition to the Northern Panhandle. Bernie Twigg, chairman of the board of directors of WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial and Wheeling Hospital, said the center’s location will be as important as its purpose.
“It will mean that your family won’t travel to Pittsburgh, you won’t go to Columbus or Cleveland — you’ll stay here in Wheeling, be close to your family, and get the best care you can,” Twigg said. “It will be significant. Years from now, we’ll all be standing in awe at the ribbon cutting.”
City and Ohio County officials hope the new center won’t be the only shot in the arm for health care in the region. They want to see that it will encourage businesses that will sit around that facility. When OVMC was open, staff and patients’ families used those businesses to eat and shop at the Center Market The former hospital’s sudden closure in 2019 took away much of that traffic, and the arrival of a regional cancer center could bring those customers back.
Jenny Showalter, manager of the Market Cafe, said she is excited to see the impact the new center will have on Center Wheeling. OVMC’s closing was a tough loss, and the arrival of WVU Medicine is something that could turn things around.
“This is wonderful news,” he said. “Hopefully, it (Center Market) will boom again. When OVMC is gone, it dies here. … I think it will be amazing.
Staff writers Eric Ayres and Shelley Hanson contributed to this report.