Knox Co. reaction to Baptist Hospital changes

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KNOX COUNTY (WVLT) When Baptist Hospital and Saint Mary's Medical Centers merged to become one, Mercy Health Partners, on January 1st, many anticipated patient care would change.

Officials announced yesterday, effective August 1st, Baptist's downtown campus will no longer perform inpatient services.

Today, the community is reacting to the decision, and learning more about how it will impact them.

Mercy Health Partners say the discontinuation of inpatient services is the next step in their plan to build a new hospital in the downtown area within three to five years.

Knox County Commissioner Paul Pinkston who represents the ninth district where baptist is located says for many, the attachment to the 60 year old institution is emotional.

"My mother and father both died at the baptist, and so it means a lot to me. And they've been good to the community over there for years."

Victoria DeFreese also represents the ninth district.

She says it's impossible to know the full impact of the move until Mercy's board decides the size, scope and location of the new hospital.

"Anytime you diminish care or you transfer it elsewhere you know the concern would be, are you going to have a vacated building? What are the plans for baptist hospital?"

Baptist Hospital downtown will continue to offer inpatient services until August 1st, when it will transfer services to Baptist West, Saint Mary's Medical Center and its north location.

For many South Knoxville residents, Baptist has been the one word in health care their entire lives.

Blanche McCarrell says, "I'm disappointed that we're going to have to go to another hospital, you know, because we've always used baptist."

Nancy Staub says, "I think it means a lot to the people in this area, especially the people who have used it for so long."

Mercy Health Partners say they are yet to make any specific decisions regarding outpatient services at Baptist downtown, but there are no plans to discontinue them in the immediate future.

They're not yet speculating on the location of the new hospital, only to say baptist's current location downtown is one possibility.

Mercy Health Partners will establish a transitional job center to help workers impacted by the transfer of services find positions at their other facilities.

They are prepared to offer other workers what they describe as "fair and just" severance packages.

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