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Merger helps local patients

Last week’s announcement that St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization were joining forces is an important development for Lawrence County residents.

Development leaders are often making efforts to bring various jobs and projects to the area, but no effort during the last few years has been more important than the one to bring a full-servive hospital back to Lawrence County.

D.R. Gossett, executive director of the CAO, said the announcement came as a result of a lot of work from different people.

“Work on this collaboration has been ongoing behind the scenes, laying the groundwork for growth that we expect to achieve,” Gossett said. “Our staff has spent time at St. Mary’s and has become immersed in the St. Mary’s culture.”

Patients at the county’s family medical centers will have access to services provided by St. Mary’s. That includes specialists and Gossett said an effort is under way to bring services to Lawrence County.

With everyone having their eyes on the prize — returning a full-service hospital to Ironton — this move is critical to help develop a network. It not only gets Lawrence Countians used to the idea of using St. Mary’s for its services, but it begins to build a base of patients that will make the hospital more of a reality.

Returning a hospital to Ironton clearly gives county residents another option when it comes to their health care and also provides economic development opportunities. But it does more than that.

When Ironton lost the River Valley hospital, it didn’t just lose a health care facility, it lost a piece of its identity. Leaders have been trying to pick up the pieces since then, and last week’s announcement shows they’re a little bit closer to putting those pieces back together.