Three years, plenty of time, little action

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

This month Lawrence County will acknowledge an anniversary. But few will likely be celebrating.

Three years ago this month, River Valley Health Systems closed its doors under the fear that its debt was at fatal levels.

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In the three years that have followed, the hospital has remained at the center of discussion for many in the county. Generations who had worked at the institution gaze with frustration as they drive by the now shuttered facility.

What was once the pride of their lives, now sits as a shell of what it once was.

The hospital wasn't particularly state-of-the-art. Sure, parts had been revamped, but River Valley would likely never win national acclaim for breaking new technological ground.

But it was ours. In the hearts and minds of the county's residents, it was theirs. Down its tiled hallways, generations celebrated the arrival of newborns and mourned the passing of their friends and family.

The love of the place was so deep that when the building finally closed, former employees say, the staff cleaned up everything before the doors were locked. It was if they knew it would just be a matter of time before the doors were unlocked and patients filled the rooms again.

Three years later and many of those former staff members still hold onto a sliver of hope that something might happen soon at their former workplace.

But the sliver of hope is fading fast.

A committee has been formed to study possible uses for the former facility, but little has been actually accomplished. The committee, at last check, meets behind closed doors and says the meetings are productive, but so far we have not seen results.

Politicians and other leaders contend the hospital was closed prematurely and that the ultimate purchaser, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, should have reopened the facility, at least in part. OLBH has said reopening the facility as a hospital or urgent care facility is unlikely.

A lot can happen in three years. Unfortunately little has.