Here’s hoping a grassroots group that is attempting to secure a small primary care hospital for Carter County is successful. Having easy access to a nearby emergency room not only would save lives, but it also would be a boost for economic development efforts in Carter County.

The group spearheading the effort also is hoping to land a primary care hospital in Sandy Hook, but the differences in the populations of Elliott and Carter counties would seem to make the Carter County project more likely to become a reality.

Currently, Carter County residents injured in accidents or suffering from a sudden illness like a stroke or heart attack must be transported for 30-to-45 minutes to the nearest hospitals in Morehead and Ashland. While the paramedics with the Carter County Ambulance Service are well trained in handling medical emergencies, there is only so much they can do in the close confines of an ambulance. Simply put, the availability of more advanced equipment and of emergency care physicians at a hospital emergency room in Cater County would save lives by providing the immediate care the seriously ill and injured need before being transferred to a larger hospital.

A small hospital also could spur more economic development in Carter County. With an interstate highway, a growing population, an improving school system and plenty of affordable land, Carter County has many of the right ingredients to attract economic development. What is missing is the existence of medical facilities, something many companies demand when seeking a place to locate.

The group seeking a hospital for Carter County has no intention of competing with King’s Daughters Medical Center and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland or St. Claire Medical Center in Morehead. They simply are seeking a 25-bed hospital capable of offering initial treatment followed by transfers, on-site treatment of broken bones and the like, and other emergency needs.

Is that an impossible dream? We don’t think so. But the final decision likely will be based as much on economics as on a community’s medical needs. While many larger hospitals are quite profitable, staying financially afloat has been a struggle for many smaller hospitals in recent years. Yet, while the hospital in Ironton collapsed with a huge debt a few years back, the small Three Rivers Hospital in Louisa has remained open. Lawrence County has fewer residents than Carter County.

The need for a small hospital in Carter County is clear, but it will take the support of the county’s medical community and its political and civic leaders to make it happen.

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