A local hospital is closing its doors.
Wellmont Health System is citing unprecedented changes in health care as the reason for closing Lee Regional Medical Center.
Company officials say three reasons led to the decision reimbursement cuts associated with the Affordable Care Act, extremely low community use of the hospital and a lack of consistent physician coverage.
Lee Regional will cease all operations on October 1, but patients who need a broad spectrum of care will still have seamless access to other Wellmont Health System facilities in the community and throughout the region. "We had certainly hoped Lee Regional could remain open as a hospital and continue serving the community, but the difficult realities facing our facility are too much to overcome," Fred Pelle, the hospital’s interim president, said in a news release. "We remain committed to serving the health needs of people who live and work in Lee County and will assist them in whatever way possible in this transition."
Wellmont says the closure is to major cuts in Medicare reimbursements by the federal government associated with the Affordable Care Act and a lack of Medicaid expansion by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Another factor is the additional two percent cut in Medicare reimbursements enacted because of the federal sequester.
More than 60 percent of the hospital's payments come from federal and state programs.
Wellmont has also struggled to find doctors to take call coverage at the hospital after the current physicians notified administrators they would no longer provide services as of October 1.
A drop in the number of patients coming to the hospital has also created more financial challenges.
The hospital employs about 140 people which is slightly more than one percent of the county’s workforce. The employees will receive severance pay.
Primary care services will continue to be available through the Wellmont Medical Associates practices of Drs. Monika Karakattu, Sidney Gilbert and Patrick Malony in Pennington Gap and Jonesville.
Wellmont has instituted a patient navigation and information service to help residents of the county with any questions.
Medical professionals can also be accessed at any time by calling 1-877-230-NURSE (6877) for general medical questions or assistance scheduling testing or hospital services.