PIKEVILLE, KY (WOWK) – With the downturn of the coal industry Eastern Kentucky has suffered major economic impacts. Today Governor Andy Beshear made an announcement that two-million-dollars in grant money will go into rebuilding the economy and a large part of that includes the health care industry.
Rural hospitals across Appalachia are closing their doors and thousands are losing jobs, but the need for health care isn’t going anywhere and neither is the need for health care professionals – like nurses! Monday at Pikeville Medical Center, Beshear announced a 500-thousand dollar grant to invest in the region’s health care as well as the economy in Pikeville.
“The importance of rural healthcare and rural hospitals is shown by the devastating news in Ashland. If we don’t invest in rural hospitals we see a loss thereof 1000 jobs,” says Governor Beshear.
The money will help open the ‘Health care Employment Around Resource Training’ project, also known as ‘HEART’. The project will help prepare more than 488 high school students for careers in nursing – hopefully reducing the nursing shortage at Pikeville Medical Center.
“We have an annual need of about 150 nurses a year compile that with all the other folks in our service area then there is a need annually in our market for 600-700 nurses,” Donovan Blackburn, CEO of Pikeville Medical Center
Right now the hospital hires traveling nurses from out of state to fill the gap, but when their assignments are done they are taking wages earned here and investing them back into their home states. The HEART project will incentivize young Kentuckians to stay in the Bluegrass State.
“It’s been a struggle. We have so many people leaving our area, not just Pikeville, not just Pike County, but all of Eastern Kentucky,” says Pikeville Mayor, Jimmy Carter.
The new HEART facility will reside in a building on Summit Drive, just steps away from downtown Pikeville.
When local students graduate high school they will have opportunities to get degrees from the University of Pikeville or Big Sandy Community and Technical College all while contributing to the local economy. The facility is expected to open this coming fall.
Other grant money will go toward updating parks, repairing water lines and flood damages in eastern Kentucky.