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Community reacts to the closing of Lee County's only hospital

Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:36:37 AM CST
Updated On: Sep 11 2013 07:55:37 PM CDT

The town of Pennington Gap, Virginia received some unsettling news Wednesday morning -- Wellmont Health Services announced that they will close the Lee Regional Medical Center on October 1.

LEE COUNTY, Va. -

The town of Pennington Gap, Virginia received some unsettling news Wednesday morning -- Wellmont Health Services announced that they will close the Lee Regional Medical Center on October 1.

"It worries me. What if something happens to my mom?" asked Robin Smith of Rose Hill.

"They need this hospital here. It's a lot of help to us," said Hearld Knoe of Pennington Gap.

After Lee Regional closes, the only closest hospital will be Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, which is 30 minutes away from Lee County. Other Wellmont hospitals in the region are more than an hour away.

Carolyn Grace from Woodway believes that distance can make the difference between life and death. "I guess we'll just die if we can't get to a hospital, because there is none [close by]," she said.

The people who use the hospital are not the only ones who are concerned. A group of physicians who said the hospital's closing is a loss to the community and they tried everything they could to stop it.

"We had met with [Wellmont Health Systems] Tuesday. We are trying to provide services to keep this hospital open. We are saddened by their decision to close it. We offered to work for little or no pay to help keep this community hospital," said Dr. Jill Couch of Stone Mountain Medical Group.

But the hospital's closing really hits home for a 37-year veteran surgeon who won't have a place to operate in just four weeks. "I have to have a operating room to offer my services. [Wellmont] is closing the hospital and operating room, my service to the community will cease," Dr. Hossein Faiz, a Lee Regional surgeon.

Despite the news, Carolyn Grace hope the hospital will remain open, even if it's under new ownership.

"Whatever it takes to keep it here. I think they should because we need it real bad," said Grace.