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New Murphy, N.C. hospital CEO specializes in rural healthcare

Erlanger took over Murphy Medical Center in April (Image: WTVC)

Rural communities across the country are struggling to keep hospitals open and our communities here at home are no exception.

Just recently, Erlanger announced it would take over Murphy Medical Center in North Carolina.

It employs hundreds and treats thousands every year.

Al Lovingood has lived here his whole life.

"It's an hour and a half to two hours from anywhere. Whether that be Asheville, Gainesville, Chattanooga, Knoxville," Lovingood said.

Lovingood is also the fire chief.

As a first responder, he's seen firsthand how emergency care in the small town is critical.

He's even been a patient himself.

"I fell off of a truck in work," he said.

While his shattered kneecap wasn't anything critical, he says he's glad he was treated at home.

Erlanger Murphy Medical Center, as it's now been named, has a new CEO: Mark Kimball.

He says this rural community is what drew him to apply for the job.

Kimball says he is passionate about "critical access care".

"People are still going to get sick, they're going to need medical care and they need to have a hometown hospital they can get to and get those services," Kimball said.

Kimball says his plan is not to just keep these doors open, but to grow the hospital into something bigger.

"We're going to do a good bit of recruitment of physicians," he said.

Tuesday, the hospital welcomed its new leader a new chapter for the hospital that community members like Lovingood, have been hoping for.

"I think we deserve the same level of healthcare that's available nationwide," Lovingood said.

Kimball's first day will be June 4.

After that he says they will immediately go into a planning phase to determine how many physicians they need to hire and exactly how they can expand.

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