ASHLAND — (AP) Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in eastern Kentucky is closing later this year, affecting the jobs of about 1,000 people.
Bon Secours Health System announced Tuesday that it will be exiting acute and outpatient care in the Ashland and Tri-State communities by the end of September 2020, resulting in the closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (OLBH), system-owned care sites and its physician network Bellefonte Physician Services. The 214-bed hospital is located in Russell, Kentucky, but its address is listed as Ashland. It was founded in 1953.
“While today is devastating for so many families in the Ashland area, I am committed to working with regional leaders to ensure access to affordable health care and to replace the jobs being lost,” said Gov. Andy Beshear in an emailed statement. “My administration will do everything we can to help those directly impacted by the sudden closure.”
The company said in a release that the decision to close the hospital came following a “very deliberate and thorough discernment process” conducted by the executive leadership team, the ministry’s board of directors and its public juridic person — the health care system’s sponsoring organization that oversees the system’s mission and ensures it is carried out according to Catholic principles.
“For more than a year, the ministry has been talking with hospitals and health systems to address the health care needs of the community, with the ultimate goal of improved outcomes and cost-effective care,” the release reads. “In addition, robust efforts have been taken to help sustain hospital operations. While these efforts offered temporary benefit, they are not enough to effectively operate in an environment that has multiple acute care facilities competing for the same patients, providers and services.”
Officials with nearby King’s Daughters Health System said Tuesday they were “deeply saddened” by the news of OLBH’s planned closure and its effect on eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio.
“Their employees, physicians and volunteers are our friends, relatives and neighbors,” said Kristie Whitlatch, KDMC president/CEO, in an emailed statement. “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 health care services now and in the future is our No. 1 priority.”
Following the news of the closure, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital, members of Mountain Health Network, announced they will host a health care professionals job fair from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Bridges Christian Church, 1402 Kenwood Drive in Russell. Immediate positions for health care professionals of all types are available at both hospitals.
The job fair will be held in Room 120, and attendees are asked to enter through the gym.
OLBH officials are exploring additional ways to support its patients’ needs going forward, according to the release, with providers working with their patients individually to ensure a smooth continuity of care.
“We take the responsibility that comes with this decision very seriously, and we do not go into it lightly. We commit to working closely with our associates to share timely and transparent information, especially as it relates to the transition of services and employment opportunities and career fairs,” Jason Asic, OLBH interim president, said in the release. “We’ll work diligently to ensure opportunities across the ministry are made available, and 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.
“While this transition is underway, we will continue to serve our patients with compassion and dignity, and we remain focused on our founding congregations’ steadfast commitment to ensuring that compassionate care is available for each of our patients, communities and associates — especially in times of need.”
Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Russell has more than 1,000 employees, according to Kevin Compton, public relations manager for the Mid-American Group, which includes Bellefonte.
Further information on the planned closure will be provided in the coming weeks and months, Compton said.
State Rep. Hinkle responds to announcement on House floor Wednesday:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to add my voice to those who are both shocked and deeply saddened about the news that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and its outpatient services are closing.
I cannot overstate just how significant this is to our region. This loss of critical medical care will have a long and lasting impact, as will the loss of the hospital network’s 1,200 jobs.
This hospital has been a pillar of our community for decades, and it has been recognized as being one of the best in its category and one of the best places to work in Kentucky. In other words, it has gone above and beyond what a hospital should do.
I want to thank those who have fought to keep its doors open in any capacity. I also want to make clear that my fellow legislators from northeastern Kentucky and I are united in doing whatever we can to help. Surely there is something we can do to keep this closure from occurring.
As many of us in this chamber know first-hand, time is critical when there is a medical emergency. A longer drive can mean the difference between life and death, or one where a relatively minor injury can become much more serious. Losing this hospital, then, will mean that tens of thousands of Kentuckians will lose time when every second counts.
My hope is that we can keep this closure from happening. If that is not possible, then I hope we will take steps as a state to ensure our region’s medical needs are maintained at the level we now have.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”