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St. Mary's Ironton campus marks anniversary

Jul. 14, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

IRONTON -- Paul Bentley, an Ironton area resident, knows first-hand how important it is to have around-the-clock emergency services in Ironton.

"I have COPD," Bentley said of a breathing ailment. "I've been in the emergency room twice. They treat you nice. We're fortunate to have them here."

Bentley was among several hundred people attending a community event at the St. Mary's Medical Campus in Ironton to celebrate a year of service to the community. When it opened last year, the $18.5 million, 46,000-square-foot medical campus brought emergency care back to the Ironton area for the first time in more than 10 years after River Valley Medical Center closed its Ironton hospital in 2001.

Joyce Rodgers of Ironton attended the open house for the medical campus a year ago and wanted to come back again this year.

"We've needed something since our hospital closed," she said. "It's a really nice facility. I hope it will become a full hospital at some point."

There are no plans to convert the medical campus to a full hospital, said Tim Parnell, St. Mary's vice president for support services, development and planning.

"We appreciate the community support," Parnell said. "I'm extremely pleased with the turnout. We hope we can continue to see our service grow. The medical campus has exceeded our expectations" with the number of patient visits, he said. "There is little-to-no wait time."

The medical campus and adjacent Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter employ about 115 employees. St. Mary's has about 70 employees, the Ironton-Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization has about 30 employees, and the helicopter firm has about 15 employees.

There were free health screenings, free hot dogs and chips, cupcakes and yogurt, as well as inflatables for the kids. There was a ribbon-cutting for the building housing the emergency helicopter plus a demonstration that turned into a real emergency run for the helicopter at 1 p.m.

The number of emergency runs Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services makes to the medical campus in Ironton has been increasing, said Earl "Buddy" Fry, director of the local ambulance service. "The numbers have been growing every month," he said. "Now about 10 percent of our runs are to bring patients here. We also take an average of three people from here every day to hospitals in Huntington, Ashland and Russell, Ky."

The community event gives Ironton area residents the chance to see what kind of services are available on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis, said Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the community action organization. "We designed it so it could be expanded," he said.

Since it opened, a dentist and Hospice of Huntington have located in the medical campus, Kline said.

The medical campus is designed to stabilize patients needing emergency care. If the patients needed extended care, they are transferred to other Tri-State area hospitals.

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