The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Friday approved plans to proceed with the acquisition of St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead. 

The move for St. Claire to become part of UK will expand clinical and academic programs as well as result in greater access to high-quality patient care for more Kentuckians. UK and St. Claire will now seek regulatory and other third-party approvals and finalize transition documents with a targeted closing date of July 1.

St. Claire HealthCare is one of the largest employers in the greater Morehead region with more than 1,300 employees including over 50 physicians and nearly 50 advanced practice professionals representing more than 20 medical specialties. 

“UK is committed to growing clinical services in the Morehead area as well as expanding programs in many clinical areas to grow the future health care workforce for Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “I would like to thank the St. Claire HealthCare Board, the Sisters of Notre Dame and all of the other constituents of this important hospital for selecting UK as the future home for St. Claire HealthCare.” 

Since the 1960s, St. Claire HealthCare has partnered with UK on many successful academic and clinical programs to grow the healthcare workforce of northeastern Kentucky. UK and St. Claire co-developed the nationally recognized Rural Physician Leadership Program, in collaboration with Morehead State University. St. Claire is also home to the UK College of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Program. In addition, it is an established training and residency site for UK’s Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

In 2023, St. Claire HealthCare began an extensive request for information (RFI) process and reached out to 12 national and regional organizations. After consideration by the St. Claire Board of Directors and the Sisters of Notre Dame, UK was chosen as the best option to partner to serve the people of this region, said St. Claire President and CEO Donald H. Lloyd II.

“As the board went through the process to select a partner for St. Claire HealthCare, UK was identified as the natural partner that could carry forward the previous work and ongoing investment while growing the healthcare workforce,” said Lloyd, who will remain in his position following the purchase. “In an ever-changing health care landscape, both St. Claire and UK are deeply committed to accessible and high-quality patient care and strategic collaborations that will enhance services to benefit Kentuckians throughout northeastern Kentucky for many decades to come.”

It is anticipated that patients will receive care from the same trusted providers, with even greater access to more services and specialty providers through the UK academic health system. 

“We are committed to making this a mutually beneficial partnership that will benefit the community and region through transformative investments in clinical services, medical education and state-of-the-art facilities,” said Eric N. Monday, UK co-executive vice president for health affairs.

St. Claire HealthCare includes a hospital with 139 licensed beds as well as seven primary care locations located within five counties, a multi-specialty medical pavilion, two urgent care centers, a pediatrics clinic, a retail pharmacy, counseling center, a medical equipment and supply store, and an outpatient center. Additionally, St. Claire HealthCare provides home health and hospice services in eight counties.

“This is a win for the people in our community and the region and a transformative investment in clinical services, for medical education and state-of-the-art facilities, and investment in the local economy,” Lloyd said. “UK is closely aligned with our mission to grow medical services rather than consolidate them, integrating our clinical expertise with their resources and commitment to our region.”

This multi-faceted plan includes not only the inclusion of St. Claire in the UK family but other opportunities for future partnerships.

“It is laying the foundation for a bold expansion of health education offerings in the region — physical therapy and physician assistants to social work and increasing the numbers in our rural physician program so that even more doctors will serve in communities throughout the region and state,” Capilouto said. “As always, we will do this in partnership — with St. Claire and alongside our sister institution Morehead State University, which is such a vital access point to higher education for so many people in northeastern Kentucky.”

Quotes from Kentucky Leadership:

Gov. Andy Beshear – “What an exciting day for health care in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Two great members of Team Kentucky, the University of Kentucky and St. Claire HealthCare, have come together to provide the best care for our families. Today’s announcement is more proof that we’re making sure northeastern Kentuckians have access to the highest quality of health care – and good jobs – for generations to come.” 

Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe, R-Lexington – “The Commonwealth is truly blessed to be home to a top-notch health care provider like UK HealthCare. As someone who recently needed emergency, lifesaving medical care following a serious equine accident, I can personally attest to the world-class care their staff are able to provide to patients in their most urgent time of need. St. Claire HealthCare and UK HealthCare have enjoyed a working partnership that spans more than six decades, providing medical services that are second to none to countless patients across the region. I am truly excited to see the new possibilities that will come from extending this existing partnership.” 

Rep. Patrick Flannery, R-Olive Hill – “Improving access to quality health care in my legislative district and region is a priority of mine. I am reminded how important it is on almost a daily basis. I was proud to help start and lead the policy discussion this legislative session about the University of Kentucky’s future role in health care in Eastern Kentucky and to make sure it is done transparently and responsibly. I am hopeful this new relationship between UK and St. Claire will be beneficial to the general welfare and health of all Kentuckians.”

Sen. Steve West, R-Paris – “The partnership between the University of Kentucky and St Claire's Hospital will only strengthen the quality of medical care in the state's most remote corners.  Not only does it mean significant investments in better health, it’s also an action that will enhance education and improve the quality of jobs in this industry. I remain committed to improved healthcare outcomes and believe this endeavor will increase accessibility for so many.”

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville – “Expanding health care access for rural Kentuckians has been one of my top priorities as state Senator. I am hopeful that UK’s purchase of St. Claire Hospital will lead to additional health care dollars flowing into Eastern Kentucky to meet the region’s needs.”

Rep. Richard White, R-Morehead – “St. Claire Hospital has served our region with distinction for more than six decades with a legacy that goes back even further. I’m proud to see this new chapter and excited to see how the resources available through UK HealthCare will increase access to innovative, world-class medical care.”

UK HealthCare is the hospitals and clinics of the University of Kentucky. But it is so much more. It is more than 10,000 dedicated health care professionals committed to providing advanced subspecialty care for the most critically injured and ill patients from the Commonwealth and beyond. It also is the home of the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that cares for the tiniest and sickest newborns, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center and Kentucky’s top hospital ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

As an academic research institution, we are continuously pursuing the next generation of cures, treatments, protocols and policies. Our discoveries have the potential to change what’s medically possible within our lifetimes. Our educators and thought leaders are transforming the health care landscape as our six health professions colleges teach the next generation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, spreading the highest standards of care. UK HealthCare is the power of advanced medicine committed to creating a healthier Kentucky, now and for generations to come.