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After 515 days of prayer, EORH is blessed, dedicated

Photo by Shelley Hanson EMPLOYEES OF East Ohio Regional Hospital wait for the blessing and dedication to begin on Wednesday.

MARTINS FERRY — East Ohio Regional Hospital received a blessing Wednesday by local clergy in advance of the anticipated reopening of the facility, expected in the next couple weeks.

In addition to clergy, Chief Operating Officer Bernie Albertini and owner Dr. John Johnson, the prayer and dedication event was attended by many of the hospital’s new employees including nurses and doctors. A few local dignitaries also attended the ceremony, held in the emergency room waiting area.

The Rev. William Webster, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, told those in attendance that it had been more than 500 days since clergy, city officials and the community began praying for the hospital to be saved and reopened.

It was shuttered in 2019 by its former owner, Alecto Healthcare Services of Irvine, California.

“August 16, 2019, we gathered at East Ohio Regional Hospital as a family outside. For about 25 years I’ve been the volunteer chaplain here and so we organized a prayer service for our hospital to reopen,” Webster said.

“That was 515 days ago, and 515 days later we are here,” Webster added. “It was a cool event on August 16. It was a cooperation not just with the clergy in town, but with the city. John Davies, our mayor now, was able to help bring in rocks. We had big boulders out there. … The whole idea was to gather together and continue to pray. Jesus talked over and over again about continually praying. The apostle Paul talked about praying without ceasing.”

Those who gathered that day took turns hitting those boulders with hammers, Webster said. It was a reminder that it doesn’t take one hit to break a boulder, but multiple hits. And, Webster continued, it sometimes takes multiple sessions of prayer and uniting in prayer to hear and find a response.

“I challenged all of us then to at 5:30 p.m. every day to pray for our hospital. And 515 days later we are here. We’re back and it feels good to be home, doesn’t it?” Webster said.

The crowd responded, “Yes.”

Albertini thanked people — including those spiritual leaders and Johnson — for coming. He credited Johnson for giving everyone the opportunity to be there Wednesday.

“He’s the guy who is responsible for all of this, so thank you. He didn’t know I was going to do that, so he’s probably going to fire me later,” Albertini joked. “It means so much to have everyone here. It’s exciting.”

In addition to Webster, other clergy who were slated to speak included the Rev. David Stammerjohn, pastor of First Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Larry Lewis, pastor of First Baptist Church; the Rev. Chap Holbert, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church; the Rev. Tom Murat, pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church; and the Rev. Michael Ziebarth, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church of the Life-Giving Fountain. They were the same pastors who kicked off the many days of prayer back on Aug. 16, Webster noted.

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