LEE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – After nearly eight years of being closed, the Lee County Community Hospital is once again providing health care to the area.
“It’s a great feeling of persistence,” Chairman of Lee County Hospital Authority H. Ronnie Montgomery said. “People didn’t believe that it was going to happen, and we kept chipping away at it.”
On Friday, politicians, community members and hospital representatives came out to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-anticipated hospital.
The critical access hospital will fulfill a great need, after years of discussion from community members as they suffered the consequences of long drives to emergency rooms. Some said once the old hospital closed down, they had to travel about an hour to receive emergency care.
“This is centrally located and it’s located in the area where most of the population is,” Montgomery said. “It’s just a great thing to help the people where they can stop here rather than having to go to Kingsport or Wise.”
The hospital opened on July 1, and Ballad Health officials say it’s already had an impact.
“We had a person come yesterday who was very very ill we were able to stabilize and get to one of our larger facilities for care,” Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said.
Ballad said the hospital reopening was possible due to the merger between Wellmonth Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance. A reopening is something that doesn’t happen often for rural hospitals.
“I think we’ve had like 130-plus rural hospitals close throughout the country in the last 10 years,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “Not very many have reopened, so this is really an exception to the rule, and it speaks to the commitment of folks here in Lee County.”