AVA Center ribbon-cutting

Pikeville Medical Center officials are joined by several officials, including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, on Aug. 14 for a groundbreaking for Pikeville Medical Center’s children hospital and a ribbon-cutting for the Appalachian Valley Autism (AVA) Center.

The region’s first children’s hospital took a step closer to becoming a reality after PMC received two grants totaling nearly $6.3 million to construct and equip the facility.

The announcement came during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, Aug. 14.

A total of $4.78 million was awarded through the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program. PMC also received an award of $1.5 million Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

“PMC Children’s Hospital will be the first and only children’s hospital in the region, filling the existing gap in pediatric care”, said PMC CEO and Vice President of the Board of Directors Donovan Blackburn .

The new PMC Children’s Hospital, when finished, will treat patients from birth to 18 years, providing regional health care services for 100,000 children in a 50-mile radius encompassing 23 counties in Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia.

The Children’s Hospital is expected to add 50 full-time staff members with up to 200 additional positions expected within the following four years.

Blackburn also announced a partnership with the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital, a Joint Pediatric Leadership Working Team, which will help develop specialty services at the facility in Pikeville.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear attended the event, marking his first official trip outside of Frankfort since before the commonwealth’s first COVID-19 case on March 6.

“I believe healthcare is a human right, and this is certainly true for our children,” Beshear said. “This announcement provides much-needed relief for families in Eastern Kentucky that no longer have to worry about traveling hours to seek care for their children.”

5th District Congressman Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers also attended Friday’s event.

“While much of the nation has been shut down by fear of the coronavirus — the resiliency of our mountain people is shining through today. I feared that the pandemic would put the brakes on critical projects like this across our rural region — but we are pressing on the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, expanding health care catered to our children in Eastern Kentucky,” Rogers said.

In addition to the groundbreaking for the children’s hospital, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new PMC’s Appalachian Valley Autism Center (AVA).

The AVA had a soft opening in July and has quickly advanced from Phase I to Phase III. The center now has the ability to care for and provide treatment for 45 children.

AVA program manager Rachel Reynolds explained that the ultimate goal is to achieve Phase IV which will allow the center to serve 100 children but that will be achieved only with the help of state, federal and private funding agencies.

“In addition to developing the region’s first children’s hospital and a new autism center, other PMC pediatric initiatives we have are the only NICU in our service area and an emergency department that is certified a Pediatric Ready and now the first emergency department in Kentucky to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC),” Blackburn said.

When construction is completed, expected in less than 18 months, PMC’s Children’s Hospital will have a 10-bed in-patient unit, 13 pediatric exam rooms, a children’s waiting area and a playroom.