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Our View: ACH's remarkable recovery

It's hard to believe that only two  years ago, Ashland Community Hospital was sinking fast. Years of losing money had left it facing certain closure if a merger could not be worked out with a larger health care organization.

A potential deal with Dignity Health fell apart amid opposition from community residents who feared the California-based hospital chain's ties to the Catholic Church would affect access to abortions and to physician-assisted suicide. Some residents also wanted Dignity to guarantee it would not reduce staff for five years, an unrealistic demand given the hospital's millions in annual losses.

The ACH board, with the approval of the City Council, turned to Asante Health System to salvage some kind of a deal that would keep the hospital's doors open.

Less than two years later, ACH has seen its annual operating losses shrink from $4.2 million to $3.6 million to $1.5 million, for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The hospital's new CEO, Sheila Clough, says ACH is on track to clear $100,000 to $200,000 for this fiscal year.

That's still a long way from the $1.5 million to $2 million operating margin a hospital of that size should achieve to be considered healthy. But the turnaround is nothing short of remarkable.

Some jobs did go away, which was inevitable as the hospital was absorbed into the larger Asante system. But if ACH had closed, every job would have disappeared. Hats off to Asante and to Clough for seeing that they didn't.