Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Catholic hospital near Ashland to close, costing 1,000 jobs

Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital opened in 1953. (Ashland Daily Independent photo)
Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in the Ashland suburb of Russell will close by Sept. 30, says the Bon Secours Health System, which operates it. The 214-bed hospital opened in 1953, when Ashland and Russell were booming with steel, railroad and petrochemcial industries.

Now, the hospital cannot "effectively operate in an environment that has multiple acute care facilities competing for the same patients, providers and services," according to a Bon Secours press release paraphrased by Aaron Snyder of The Daily Independent in Ashland. The Ashland hospital market is dominated by 486-bed King's Daughters Medical Center.

"Approximately 1,000 employees are affected," Snyder reports. "There are no immediate job cuts, according to OLBH."

State Rep. Danny Bentley, a Republican from Russell, called it “devastating news for our community. We have so many critical health care needs that are best met by a local facility. I served as a volunteer hospital board member for nine years under its previous ownership and I have seen first-hand the impact this facility makes on Greenup County. My greatest fear is that if we can’t find a way to prevent it from closing, we will never see it reopen.”

Bentley, a pharmacist, said he has asked Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to work with him and local officials to keep the hospital open.

Bon Secours, whose name is French for "safe harbors," owns Lourdes Hospital in Paducah and Marcum and Wallace Memorial Hospital in Irvine. It acquired those hospitals when it absorbed Mercy Health, another Catholic chain, in a merger less than two years ago.

Jason Asic, OLBH’s interim president, said in the release, “We will work closely with area employers to identify opportunities close to home. In addition, we are establishing partnerships across the Tri-State to help those who may want to explore a different career.”

Kristie Whitlatch, president and CEO of King’s Daughters, said in a statement, “King’s Daughters and Our Lady of Bellefonte hospitals have served eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio for a very long time and we are deeply saddened by today’s news. Their employees, physicians and volunteers are our friends, relatives and neighbors. King’s Daughters will work with Our Lady of Bellefonte, its leadership and team to find any and all opportunities to keep jobs and health care local. We will provide more information related to both very soon. Making sure our community has access to quality healthcare services now and in the future is our No. 1 priority.”

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