LEE COUNTY, VA (WJHL) – More than 450 people turned out to a public hearing in Jonesville Wednesday night, to push for the reopening of Lee County, Virginia’s only hospital.
Last October, Wellmont Health System shut down the hospital, citing funding problems because of the health care reform legislation and low community use. The closure left many in Lee County with a drive between 30 minutes to an hour to the nearest hospital, and leaders have called it the most serious issue to hit the county in years.
News Channel 11’s Kylie McGivern was at the meeting to hear the concerns of more than 40 people signed up to speak at the public hearing held at Lee High School’s auditorium.
The hearing brought out people from all walks of life: community leaders, former hospital employees, teachers, patients, doctors, farmers, the list goes on. Notably in attendance, representatives for a U.S. Congressman and two U.S. Senators. State delegate Terry Kilgore also attended, and made his case for the dire need of a hospital reopening. Kilgore introduced legislation that made the Lee County Hospital Authority a reality.
All who spoke, said the past year has been filled with fear.
“every day the school nurses are on pins and needles, afraid that something devastating is going to happen and we are going to lose one of our children,” Registered Nurse Jan Mosley said, a former employee of Lee Regional Medical Center who now works for the Lee County school system.
“The effect closing the hospital is on the school has been so devastating, that I can’t even describe to you,” Mosley said. “If we have multiple students injured, we don’t even have ground transport available for multiple injuries. If they should be severe injuries, I fear that the student would not make it to Holston Valley, which is the closest trauma center.”
“Not too long ago my husband and I we’re stopped at a red light at the entrance to Lee County Community Hospital,” Judy Roberts said. “Lights on, sirens, but instead of being able to take a left turn and go to the emergency room with that patient in less than 2 minutes, they were forced to pass up what had been the lifeline for Lee County resident for more than 80 years – our hospital, which was now closed.”
“If you want an answer to the question, is there a need for a hospital in Lee County? I would direct you to the person in the back of that ambulance for the family who cared for that person. And I believe the answer you would get is, ‘Yes, there is a need,” Roberts said, which led to the public erupting into applause.
“We live in a poor county but we’re proud people. And we want to take care of our own people,” Mosley said.
The Lee County Hospital Authority is currently in negotiations with Wellmont Health System to purchase the hospital, and come December, should have word from the Virginia Department of Health on whether its Certificate of Need application has been approved.
The goal is to reopen a 25-bed critical access hospital July 1, 2015.
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