RUSSELL, Ky. - Just as he did in March, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear deemed a basketball analogy fitting as he spoke to a crowd of about 400 masked people during his visit to King’s Daughters Pavilion on Wednesday evening.
“This is Team Kentucky, when two of our greatest players are coming together to do something special,” Beshear said. “Sometimes two teammates can do something amazing (like) the two-man game in basketball, the pick and roll, still one of the most dominant approaches to the game.”
University of Kentucky HealthCare and King’s Daughters Medical Center entered into a partnership on April 1. Beshear, Senior Adviser Rocky Adkins, UK Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Mark Newman, M.D., UK President Dr. Eli Capilouto and KDMC President/CEO Kristie Whitlatch addressed the crowd as they celebrated the partnership with a “Stronger Together” theme.
Leading up to the April 1 union were many discussions and brainstorming sessions.
“The idea was how could we see this partnership coming to fruition?” Newman said. “At UK HealthCare, the vision of our new strategic plan is ‘one community committed to creating a healthier Kentucky.’ I can’t think of a better example of doing that than this partnership.”
The tandem isn’t a brand-new idea. Back in February 2016, KDMC and the UK College of Medicine teamed up. As Newman noted, the Markey Center and KDMC have had a longtime affiliation.
Newman said plans are in motion to work together to expand services in pediatric oncology with UK HealthCare Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
“Just this last week, we collaborated on our first pediatric echocardiography read, and we will soon be providing pediatric cardiology services at King’s Daughters,” he said.
“When we announced plans to work together earlier this year, we accurately anticipated both UK HealthCare and King’s Daughters would thrive and grow stronger together through all the work that this group have been able to do,” Newman added.
When Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital closed in April 2020, Adkins was like so many other political figures in the area in trying to come up with potential solutions. He credited Whitlatch for hiring many of OLBH’s medical workers in order to keep them serving in the area.
Whitlatch and Adkins met on several occasions. Following one meeting in Adkins’ office, Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, approached Adkins.
“He said, ‘I believe there is an opportunity here to form a partnership,’” Adkins recalled, “‘between UK HealthCare and King’s Daughters Medical Center.’
Adkins pointed out Friedlander in the crowd, who gave him a rousing applause.
Both Adkins and Beshear praised Whitlatch for her efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and for her role in this partnership.
“Kristie Whitlatch, you are a phenomenal, incredible leader, and people are alive because of you today,” Beshear told the hospital’s CEO.
Beshear said he envisions a slew of opportunities blossoming from this partnership.
“Now, eastern Kentucky will have expanded access to all-level services, advanced procedures, technologies and specialists, and most importantly, right here in this community,” Beshear said. “Eastern Kentuckians will now have access to UK’s organ transplantation program, bone marrow transplantation and expanded access to UK’s Markey Cancer Center without traveling far from home, to never be told that you need to move to get the access and the care you need.
“I see more opportunity for eastern Kentucky than ever before in my lifetime,” the governor added.
Beshear continued to urge Kentuckians to get vaccinated.
“Together we’re going to beat COVID, together we’re going to provide world-class health care services, and together we’re going to take our place as a leader in the post-COVID economy,” he said.