JONESVILLE, Va. - It has been almost a year since Wellmont Health System shuttered Lee Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia.
In that time, the people of Lee county and the surrounding area have not had immediate access to emergency care.
Now though, there is more than a glimmer of hope for a hospital returning to the region. Members of the Lee County Hospital Authority gathered in Jonesville Thursday afternoon to share a progress update on what's been done since Lee Regional closed October 1, 2013.
" At first we were angry and disappointed. And then with the help of some friends, we got to work. "
Chairman Sonny Martin told News 5 the Lee County Hospital Authority notified the Virginia Department of Health on June 1st that the Hospital Authority would be filing an application for a certificate of public need. The earliest the that application could be approved is December.
"Our goal is a hospital owned and controlled by Lee County," said Martin.
Martin told the assembled group they Hospital Authority is in active discussions with Wellmont for control of the former Lee Regional building. They hope to get control of the property in the next few weeks.
They filed that application July 1st and have also created a petition for the people of Lee County to sign. Part of the application process is a demonstration of public support for the new hospital.
Sheriff Gary Parsons, a staunch advocate for a hospital in his county, said everyone needs to help bring emergency care back to the area.
"In your lifetime, you will probably not be involved in any greater endeavor than getting this hospital back," said Parsons.
Tom Clark sits on the Hospital Authority Board.
" We need everybody in the county to shout as loud as they can that we want our hospital back"
He told News 5 the reborn hospital will be designated a Critical Care facility, with 25 beds.
" It means we have a 24-hour-emergency department thats staffed 24," said Clark.
Welcome news for Sondra Nimety, who lives in Pennington Gap with her 10-year-old son Noah. Noah has had a tube in his throat since infancy.
" There have been times when we would not have made it if we had not been able to get to immediate medical attention," said Nimety.
She said they have not had any scares since the hospital closed, but she did briefly consider moving out of Lee County to an area with an open hospital.
" I just really hope this goes through and that he can have the care that he needs and everyone can have the care that they need," Nimety told News 5.
If the Lee County Hospital Authority's application for a certificate of public need is approved, the hospital would begin staffing in December and preparing for the accreditation process with a projected opening of July 1, 2015.
You can take a look at the petition by clicking here.