Several local and regional leaders attended along with approximately 300 area residents and students from the community college and local high school. All were there to participate in an event to welcome what local medical planners are calling a "state-of-the-art medical facility" for the northeastern section of the county.
The corporation's chief executive said ARH's improvement effort, called the "Medical Centers of the Mountains" initiative, has been evident in this project and in many others that have resulted in improved hospitals, clinics, technology and services available across the region.
"This is a living commitment that ARH has made to Harlan County and the people of the Tri-Cities," said Steve Hanson, president and CEO. "It is our desire to see it be here forever and ever. The people of Appalachia should have access to the same high quality facilities and services as anyone else in the country."
Hanson noted the contributions made by all those within ARH, from its union labor and management employees to its physicians, volunteers and trustees who come from the Appalachian communities.
"This clinic represents a lot of what the latest available technology can do to improve the health and well being of people in a community," he said. "But I would trade all that in a minute for all the great people in the ARH family."
In his opening remarks, Michael Layfield, Harlan Community CEO, noted the historic contribution coal miners have made to improved healthcare services in Harlan County. ARH continues that trend with this new Cumberland facility offering easily accessible, high-quality healthcare for all.
The 7,200-square-foot facility features CT and MRI scanning technology; new laboratory facilities; a pharmacy with a drive-up window for customer convenience, and access to home medical supplies. The new clinic provides office and examination rooms for five physicians and other providers, thereby allowing a greater number of physicians to provide medical services for area residents at a central location.
Ken Thomas, chairman of the ARH Board of Trustees and a Harlan-area banker, said he was proud of the broad-based cooperation evident in getting the clinic completed as well as the support given to the project by the community.
"We certainly appreciate the wonderful turnout," Thomas said. "This is an example of ARH's commitment to Harlan County and eastern Kentucky. We want to provide the best in care to the people of this region.
"This is an example of local government, state government and private enterprise coming together to build something to benefit everyone," he continued. "Coal severance funds made this project possible, so all those working men and women in the mines of Harlan County had a hand in what we have accomplished here. This project is also a shot in the arm for economic development in our area and a very important resource for improving the quality of life for people."
Cumberland Mayor Jeff Harrison said, on behalf of "the entire Tri City community, I want to thank ARH for its investment in this community."
"We need this and other projects to improve our quality of life," he added. "What ARH has done here, to restore an old building and turn it into something very impressive, is very symbolic of the type of thing we need to continue to encourage. This project is one of the stepping stones for us along that path and is one of the first of many more ribbon-cuttings we hope to have into the future."
State Rep. Rick Nelson of Middlesboro is a Harlan County native and represents several precincts in the Cumberland area. He joined in the spirit of the occasion with a reminder that everyone should keep in mind the ideas of progress and convenience that this new clinic represents.
"I remember what going to a camp doctor and a trip to the hospital were like back then and I wish we had we had it, but we didn't. How many people might still be with us if they did heart bypass surgery 40 years ago instead of 30? How many lives would be improved if what we can do now was here only 20 years ago? We have to continue to look to the future. That is when you get progress.
"And for all the coal miners who worked so hard for so long to make better lives for themselves and their families: You paid for this. There is no question where your coal severance dollars are going. So every time you drive by here, going or coming from work, you can see where your money went and what it is doing to improve everyone's life."
With the opening of the new clinic in Cumberland, the ARH Cumberland Valley Primary Care Center in Lynch will close operations, including its pharmacy, at the end of business today. Clinic patients and pharmacy customers will be able to receive services at the new Tri-City Medical Center with the start of the business day on Monday.
CUTLINE INFO: ARH representatives joined with community and regional leaders to celebrate the opening of the new Tri City Medical Center in Cumberland on Wednesday. Pictured from left are: Charles Housley, executive director of business and fund development for ARH; Michael Layfield, Community CEO at Harlan; Steve Hanson, president and CEO of ARH; Dr. Arif Bari; Rep. Rick Nelson; Crain Saunders, administrator of the ARH Daniel Boone Clinic in Harlan; Pam Sherman-Sheffield, nurse practitioner; Loretha Boggs, nurse practitioner; and Nicey Hazen, president of the Tri City Chamber of Commerce.