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St. Mary’s, CAO to form partnership

St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization will announce a partnership Friday aimed at improving primary care in Lawrence County, The Tribune has learned.

D.R. Gossett, Executive Director of the CAO, said St. Mary’s will become a partner in operating the CAO’s four clinics in the county, which are located in Ironton, Coal Grove, South Point and Chesapeake.

“Essentially what’s happening is we’re putting together a collaboration with St. Mary’s. It’s all part of the effort to create the right environment for the hospital project,” Gossett said. “It’s a specific collaboration for primary care.”

The CAO has eight doctors and four nurse practitioners that serve the four clinics. Gossett declined to comment on how the new arrangement will affect day-to-day operations at the clinics and said more details will be available at Friday’s announcement.

“I don’t want to go too far into that,” he said.

Gossett said the announcement is a key step in reaching the goal of a full-service hospital in Lawrence County. Announcements will be made at each of the four clinics — Ironton (9:30 a.m.), Coal Grove (11 a.m.), South Point (noon) and Chesapeake (1 p.m.).

“We’re hoping to grow primary care in Lawrence County. Right now a lot of people are going across the river, to West Virginia or Ashland (Ky.) or Russell (Ky.),” Gossett said. “We have to create not just a hospital, but a network. This is an important step in creating that environment.”

Doug Korstanje, director of marketing and community relations for St. Mary’s Medical Center, agreed.

“We believe this is going to be beneficial to patients and to both partners,” Korstanje said. “It is another exciting step in bringing quality health care to Lawrence County.”

Last month, Lawrence County Health Care Futures LLC — a consortium that included St. Mary’s, the CAO, the Lawrence Economic Development Corp., ClearPoint Companies, the Lawrence County Port Authority and other entities — announced plans for a medical complex at the intersection of U.S. 52 and State Route 140.

Representatives announced a two-phased plan, the first of which is to construct a family medical center with extended urgent care hours with the possibility of other services, including an imaging center, surgery center, and other specialty clinical space. Construction on Phase 1 will begin at an unspecified date in 2009.

The ultimate goal of the consortium is to build a full-service hospital, but at the September announcement representatives of the parties involved said it would depend on the success of earlier steps in the project.