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A letter to our community

  • Category: Blog, Community
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  • Written By: King's Daughters Health
A letter to our community

Dear Friends of Kings Daughters,

We recognize this is a very stressful time for our families, friends, and neighbors who have depended on Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital for healthcare and employment for many years. And while we want to be sensitive to our friends and colleagues facing major change, we also want you to know what we’ve been doing to provide some answers and a path forward.

I would like first to address a question I’ve heard repeatedly over the past several weeks that “all of this” is a ploy for King’s Daughters to position itself for a buyout by another health system. I want you to know that while we do and will continue to collaborate with other healthcare organizations, we are not for sale. Recent events demonstrate the importance of keeping healthcare local. King’s Daughters is a private, independent, not-for-profit organization controlled by a volunteer Board who are all members of this community. King’s Daughters has served the community for 120 years. Our only mission is caring for the people here. We will never enter into any relationship that does not further that mission.

However, we do need the support of our communities so we can remain a strong independent business. Keeping your healthcare local is important. We encourage you, your families and neighbors, to use the local providers associated with King’s Daughters, and to choose our diagnostic, treatment, and inpatient services. Supporting King’s Daughters through the current crisis and for years to come will help ensure the future of local healthcare, jobs, and our overall economy.

One of the most important things we are doing right now is working to ensure that physicians and healthcare providers in the local community are able to stay here. Last week we welcomed eight well-established independent family practice physicians to our medical staff: Larry Fields, M.D., Abbe Cassity, D.O., Carrie Connett, D.O., Rancie Hannah, M.D., Derek Jones, D.O., Ryan Kazee, M.D., and Audrey Smith, D.O., of the Family Medicine Center, and Angie Lewis, D.O.

We are working with additional primary care providers, pediatricians and medical specialists in the community to add them to our medical staff. We will announce each of these appointments as soon as they are finalized.

To ensure patients are aware of their care options, we have established a special phone number, (606) 408-CARE (2273), to assist with scheduling appointments, transferring medical records, and general questions. This service is staffed by local healthcare professionals and is available 24/7.

Many laboratory tests, imaging/x-ray studies and other diagnostic services can be performed at King’s Daughters regional facilities; patients don’t necessarily have to come to our main campus to receive services. A list of our locations, and services available at each, can be found online at Our new Urgent Care Center, 399 Diederich Blvd., Russell, will expand these options when it opens April 1.

We are aware of the importance of the pediatric rehabilitation and physical therapy services offered at the OLBH Vitality Center. We believe we have a solution to retain these services and avoid interruptions in care. I will share details with you as soon as they are available. We are also working with patients receiving infusion/IV therapy services at OLBH to ensure ongoing treatment. And we are expanding our Occupational Medicine services to help meet local business needs.

Although we have been working at a fast pace since Jan. 21, the decision to close OLBH’s inpatient units and emergency department by April 30 has intensified our efforts. Opening a new nursing unit and outpatient facility, much less several simultaneously, is a substantial undertaking. We are doing all we can to expedite the work, but we simply are not in control of everything. We are explaining the situation to our vendors and working with them to obtain the equipment and supplies we need. We are committed to taking care of our community, but given the short time frames, patients may encounter longer than expected waits. For that I apologize and ask for your patience.

I know many people in our communities need jobs. We have already extended job offers to hundreds of people and we will start onboarding them in March, focusing first on clinical personnel. We are likely to hire more people in the next two months than we normally hire in one year. We are actively looking for ways we can keep jobs local in Greenup, Carter and Lawrence counties. Please know we will do all we can to support local jobs in your local communities.

Another concern that has been mentioned is 9-1-1 emergency services access to care. This past week, we met with Greenup County Judge Executive Bobby Carpenter, Director of Greenup County E-911 Buford Hurley, Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone and Carter County EMS Executive Director Rick Loperfido to discuss issues and needs. We are committed to working with EMS to ensure access remains strong and reliable, including equipping first responders, especially those in rural areas, with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

I am committed to our patients and our communities. We will invest the necessary time, energy and resources to develop viable solutions to keep healthcare local and our community healthy. I will continue to keep you informed as we move forward and I look forward to your continuing support.


Kristie Whitlatch