• 63°

RVHS committee has its work cut out

Tribune editorial staff

A few dozen local residents face a difficult task -- making a recommendation on how to use the former River Valley Health System building in Ironton.

The bankrupt hospital closed in January 2001 leaving the once thriving building just a vacant shell of its old self. Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland purchased the structure for $5.8 million last year. A number of residents have accused OLBH of purchasing the building defensively to block any potential competitors from re-opening the hospital. It is a charge OLBH denies.

Despite what hospital officials may say, their move likely was -- at least in part -- motivated by the ability to block potential competition. To that we say "so what." OLBH is a business and successful businesses make smart decisions. If you don't like the fact that the hospital purchased the building and has done nothing with it, blame the Lawrence County Commissioners, not the hospital. If the county did not have a contract in which OLBH agreed to re-open the hospital, the county has no reason to be upset. OLBH paid the agreed upon price.

To combat some of the flak, OLBH has formed a committee made up of local officials, residents and business leaders to study the hospital building and seek possible future uses.

The committee is a good idea, although it may wind up being largely a feel good move since the structural and mechanical systems problems that prevented OLBH from using the building for its new urgent care center will also face any potential occupants, too. We encourage the committee to strongly consider making the meetings open to the public. Sure, they may get a few former RVHS employees who want to stand up and throw a tomato or two, but that should quickly subside.

We hope and pray that the local minds on the committee can find a great solution for the building -- one that will generate jobs for our city and county. Doing so would go a long way toward eliminating the bad taste that remains in the wake of the River Valley's death spiral.