Hospital to get new owners

The new hospital on Treuhaft Boulevard opened its doors in 2001.
The new hospital on Treuhaft Boulevard opened its doors in 2001.

It’s been a long-time coming, but County taxpayers may soon be replaced as owners of the Knox County hospital. After months of negotiations, the Knox County Fiscal Court, the Knox County Hospital District and the Knox County Hospital Board all met on Tuesday. The three governing bodies each met to sign Resolution No. 20151020-1. The resolution authorizes Knox Judge Executive J.M. Hall, to finalize negotiations and sign documents to transfer the lease and operation of the Knox County Hospital to Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH). ARH, a not-for-profit health system serving Eastern Kentucky and Southern West

Photo Courtesy of Larry Ramsey The cornerstone for the original Knox County Hospital on High Street was laid in 1958.
Photo Courtesy of Larry Ramsey
The cornerstone for the original Knox County Hospital on High Street was laid in 1958.

Virginia, plans to soon take over the operation of the Knox County Hospital. ARH is the largest provider of health care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third largest private employer in southern West Virginia.  Using ARH’s medical staff, and its affiliation with UK, experts say our local hospital should soon be able to provide both better patient care and more access to specialty doctors and surgeons. ARH representatives have been reluctant to publicly comment on the take over until after all the proper paperwork has been officially signed. PrintHowever, they have been talking with hospital staff for several weeks now. The staff is ready for the new changes to take effect, which could be very soon. “We are excited and glad,” said Brenda Graham, Director of Nursing at the hospital. “We know there will be some changes, but they’re going to be good changes. We’re ready for it to happen.” “We will be ARH employees,” said Janet Wilder, director of personnel. “They haven’t told us details yet. One thing for sure is they’re able to bring in their doctors and specialists. We’re holding our breath. We think it will be good for everyone, staff and patients alike. “When you go through anything like this, you are nervous, because it’s the unknown. It’s change, but we’re joining an organization that knows how to run a hospital, not just a management company that has nothing invested in the hospital.” Asked why the deal, so long in negotiation, has still not been finalized, hospital board member Tom O’dell Smith explained, “We are doing everything the right way.” Agreeing with Smith was the outside legal counsel hired by the hospital specifically to negotiate this deal. “They (the hospital board) have hired the best professionals. Every ‘i’ has been dotted and every ‘t’ has been crossed,” said the attorney, Gillard Johnson. “They did it, and are doing it, right.” Johnson also noted that this deal is very complex. However, Johnson expects final negotiations with ARH Mary Breckinridge Health Services, Inc., the legal name of the group that plans take over the hospital’s reins, to be completed soon. While the hospital has a long history, (see hospital timeline graphic) just over two years ago it’s end seemed perilously close. The hospital was in bankruptcy, again. “The biggest event in all this is the Fiscal Court stepping up and deciding to pull the hospital out of bankruptcy,” hospital board member Tom Odell-Smith said after the hospital board finished signing the resolution. “They invested money to keep the jobs and the hospital here in Knox County. If it hadn’t been for the judge and the Fiscal Court, it would have been boarded like Lancaster, and we still would be paying a debt. I don’t know of another judge executive or Fiscal Court that would have done what they did.” Mark Moran was in total agreement with his fellow board member. “There is no other county judge in the state of Kentucky or a Fiscal Court that would have done what they have done. The judge, the Fiscal Court and this board have kept this hospital open. This is the hardest working board of directors I have ever seen in my life.” In reflection, Judge Executive J.M. Hall compared Knox Hospital’s situation with that of Garrett County’s hospital. “Garrett County has a hospital tax with no hospital,” he said. “and it’s closed right now. We didn’t want that.” Hall added, “It’d have been a lot easier if we had done that. We could have taken the easiest way out, but we’ve got to have a hospital. And how do we get jobs created here without a hospital? This facility is of vital importance to the county.” Hall also said he expects negotiations with ARH will be finalized and the transfer will take place “very soon.”