Mercy ending lease at Scott County's only hospital

ONEIDA, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One East Tennessee County already has the state's highest unemployment rate, and now their only hospital will be closing.

In a release, Mercy Health Partners announced their plan to end their lease at the Saint Mary's Medical Center in Oneida.

They did not give a reason, nor would anyone from Mercy go on camera, but many in the community are shocked, wondering what they will do in an emergency.

In the heart of Scott County, sits the the areas only hospital, and it's been there for more than fifty years.

But, the most recent operator, Mercy Health Partners, will move out in two years.

Scott County resident, Kristian York said, "We don't really know where we're gonna go to the doctor if its not here, the hospital, for emergencies. It's really scary."

Kristian has lived in Scott County her entire life, but its the future of her son that she's worried about. She said, "My son went into anaphylactic shock one day, and if we wouldn't have got here, it was like 5 minutes left, he would have died, if we wouldn't have been here"

Scott County Mayor, Rick Keeton said, "What we want to do is go out and seek an operator that will be beneficial to this community. It's very important within a small rural community, so far away from other hospitals that we have a hospital presence here."

In fact hospitals in neighboring counties are all nearly an hour away from the Saint Mary's in Oneida.

Scott County resident, Rhonda Young is concerned for her husband's and daughter's health issues. She said, "She has asthma herself, so you know its not gonna be too convenient if I have to travel many, many miles for emergency care, that's scary."

And, Mayor Keeton is worried how this will impact a county with a more than 19 percent unemployment rate, as more than 200 people would be without jobs.

Keeton said, "Those people are, many of those, are specialized in medical care, so they would, in all likelihood, have to go to another community to find employment and we don't want that at all."

Despite the news, some residents are hopeful the doors won't close permanently. Rhonda said, "Anybody that can just kind of come in and take over, and maybe even make it better."

The lease will be up by this time, in 2012, but Mayor Keeton pointed out, the process to find a new hospital operator isn't a fast one, so they will have to get to work, to make sure that Scott County doesn't lose it's only hospital.


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