The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 1, 2007

St. Luke’s Hospital closes doors

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — More than 100 years of medical service ended with hugs and farewells for now when St. Luke’s Hospital closed just before midnight Monday.

For many of the remaining employees, Monday’s closing was a difficult time. The small hospital had been a significant part of their lives for years. Sometimes fighting back tears, they described the very special working relationship they shared.

“Many of our employees have been here a long time,” said Executive Director Joetta Dotson, who has held her current post for a year. “We have employees who have been here for 35 years. I started in the old St. Luke’s in Bluefield in October 1977.”

St. Luke’s Hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004. When the hospital’s closure was announced in early April, employees started recounting all the human elements that made the facility special to them and their patients.

“I’m going to miss the wonderful relationship we all had, that I have had, with the staff and physicians,” Dotson said. “The girls here gave such wonderful care to every last patient. It was just a family atmosphere.”

For many patients, the job at St. Luke’s was the job of their lives. One employee, Barbara Atwell of the radiology department, had been with the hospital since she left high school. To her, fellow employees and the patients who used St. Luke’s were part of a wider family.

“It’s like losing all of your family members,” she said. “The patients that came in are saying, ‘We don’t want you to close.’ They’ve lost their comfort zone, because they knew that when they came here, we were going to take care of them.”

Edna Scarberry, secretary for the radiology department, had been at the hospital for 20 years. For her, the connection to St. Luke’s goes even deeper than employment.

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