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St. Claire and UK celebrate merger, touting economic, health, and education impacts

Samantha Morrill

Music from the New Beckham County Ramblers set a joyous mood as hundreds of people gathered in the Morehead Conference Center on Wednesday to celebrate the merger of UK and St. Claire.

Samantha Morrill

Physicians, elected officials, education leaders, and community members packed the room, which was decorated with white flowers and balloons, and accented with University of Kentucky blue. St. Claire HealthCare President and CEO Donald Lloyd opened the program.

“The St. Claire HealthCare Board of Directors and the Sisters of Notre Dame unanimously agreed the best choice to meet the future needs of St. Claire - and more importantly the people of our region - is a Kentucky-based solution, the University of Kentucky,” said Lloyd.

Samantha Morrill

Much of the event centered around the history of St. Claire, Dr. Claire Louise Caudill, and the Sisters of Notre Dame, who together made the hospital possible more than 60 years ago. UK President Eli Capilouto said partnerships between UK, Morehead State University, and St. Claire are built on Dr. Caudill’s legacy.

“Her stories inspire today and you can feel her presence here and the responsibility we have to make certain that Kentuckians can have the very best of care when they face those difficult moments for them and their families in a health challenge,” said Capilouto.

Aaron Thompson, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education, was at the event to show his support. Thompson said while the educational impacts of the partnership cannot be overstated, healthcare access in the region will also be greatly improved.

“What this relationship does is provide Rowan and other surrounding counties with good long-term health care with not only primary and internists but also with wonderful specialists that now can be very much a part of this community on a regular basis without having really to leave the community to get it,” said Thompson.

As part of the merger, five of UK’s colleges of health have committed to creating programs at St. Claire, including clinical infrastructure and education. Senior Advisor to Governor Andy Beshear, Rocky Adkins, said this is a special opportunity for eastern Kentucky.

“To enhance quality healthcare, to grow it, as we move into the future. As we see the quality nurses, physician assistants, doctors, folks that work in the healthcare field continue to continue to be educated here, continue to stay in the rural parts of Kentucky, eastern Kentucky,” said Adkins.

State Senators Richard White and Steve West also addressed the crowd during the event. West said the legislature will continue to support Rowan and surrounding counties as St. Claire grows the region. He said part of that is preserving existing relationships.

Samantha Morrill

“I want to make sure that Morehead State University is not, we don’t forget about them as well and that partnership continues. It’s really three legs of the stool, right? St. Claire, UK, and Morehead. And they continue to be a key player,” said West.

Rocky Adkins said St. Claire has been a part of the region’s identity for more than 60 years, and that won’t be changing once the hospital becomes known as UK St. Claire.

“You know, that university is not the University of Lexington, it’s the University of Kentucky. To be able to see that type of expertise come in, many of our people already go to UK HealthCare, they go to the hospital there in Lexington, at UK’s hospital. So, they’re familiar, I think, with UK HealthCare,” said Adkins.

Not to be forgotten are the economic implications of the partnership. Adkins said UK St. Claire will give Rowan County a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting future business.

“One of the top five questions, tell us about your accessibility and your quality of healthcare. Well, we’ve always been able to check that box. But I’m telling you, with this announcement and the prestige that UK brings with the prestige of St. Claire, I think you double check that box now,” said Adkins.

Growth at the hospital is already apparent. St. Claire is bringing on more than 20 new doctors this summer alone. President and CEO Donald Lloyd said along with them will come other employment opportunities.

“If you’re a qualified professional of any type, whether you’re a clinician or a non-clinician, you have culinary expertise, or you’re an accountant or you have a business background or an engineer, we likely have an opportunity for you,” said Lloyd.

The partnership between the two healthcare organizations will become official on July 1.