A century of commitment
OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital has shaped the health of southeast Ohio for a century, each decade marked by meaningful moments shared with patients who are friends and neighbors.
Our story began on the west side of Athens, where the Breinig family opened their home for use as a maternity center in 1921. Since then, O’Bleness Hospital has become a healthcare hub for the surrounding communities, serving the same humble calling to keep expert care close to home.
Now as we celebrate our past, we are focused on the future. We’re investing in services, facilities, specialists and technology to ensure our legacy of local healthcare lives on for the next 100 years.
A history of O’Bleness Hospital
Our family keeps you close to yours
O’Bleness Hospital’s tradition of excellence is reflected every day in the passion of our physicians, associates and volunteers. But we’re not just healthcare workers — we’re a team of your friends and neighbors, here to help guide you to your best health.
Small-town hospital, big expertise
At a lot has changed since Lynn O’Leary, RN, started her first day as a nurse at O’Bleness Hospital 45 years ago. She’s now a nursing supervisor, the hospital’s emergency department capacity has doubled, and specialists like oncologists are delivering expert care right in Athens, instead of traveling from Columbus. Advanced technology also means patients are getting back home to their loved ones sooner.
“The only technology I initially struggled with was our switch to electronic health records,” Lynn admits. “I’m a pen and paper person. But now that patients have access to their own charts and they can see results in real time, that gives them a real sense of control over their own healthcare.”
Something that hasn’t changed in Lynn’s 45 years at O’Bleness Hospital is our associates’ close, personal connection to the community. “I can remember people who came in by their first names,” says Lynn. “People come to O’Bleness Hospital and see nurses they know, and it makes them feel comfortable and safe. We have a lot of pride in our community and our hospital.”
Another great source of pride for Lynn is her fellow nurses. “We have a phenomenal nursing staff. Even during the pandemic, I never heard anyone complain. They came in and they were dedicated. I was in awe of their commitment and their desire to take care of our patients. A lot of our nurses live in the community. We have a few that drive an hour to get here, but they don’t mind because they love working at O’Bleness Hospital.” Then again, that’s just what you’d expect from a hospital that has been dedicated to caring for the Athens community for 100 years.
“Just so you know,” says Lynn, “I have no intentions of retiring!”
There’s no place like home
After attending school in Athens from third grade through medical school, Sergio Ulloa, DO, left for his residency in Akron, not knowing if he’d ever have the opportunity to practice in his hometown. But while finishing a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, OhioHealth family medicine physician Mark Rothstein, MD, approached him about doing just that. Now Dr. Ulloa is back in Athens with his wife, OhioHealth family medicine physician Katherine Hutchison Ulloa, DO, practicing at OhioHealth as an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician, and as a team physician for the Ohio University Bobcats. He’s thankful to see many familiar faces each day.
“It’s not uncommon in our clinic to see my former French teacher or gym teacher,” he says. “Even my college professors are now of the age where they’re seeking orthopedic care. I’m honored they trust me with their care and that we have that continuity in our community. That’s one of the benefits of O’Bleness Hospital – the nurse working with you or the custodian cleaning your room or the physician attending to you is someone you’re going see in the community.”
At the same time, says Dr. Ulloa, the support of a larger organization has also brought great benefits. “OhioHealth’s involvement has given us the ability to add service lines we need to serve our patients better. And when a patient needs a specialist we don’t have in town, we have resources in Columbus, which helps minimize sending our patients further from home.”
Much like Dr. Ulloa, Vipin Koshal, DO, who was born at O’Bleness Hospital, wasn’t sure whether he’d find a position back home after training. It was his cardiology fellowship mentor, OhioHealth interventional cardiologist Mitchell Silver, DO, who encouraged him to bring his expertise to Athens. In 2009, Dr. Koshal became the first full-time cardiologist at O’Bleness Hospital.
“I didn’t realize how much heart and vascular care was needed here until I came back and saw that people really wanted to keep their care local,” he says. “I get so much pleasure being able to take care of the people who raised me, and to give back to the area that provided so much for me and my family.”
Dr. Koshal has since been joined by cardiologist Mitesh Patel, DO, and two nurse practitioners. “Thanks to the support of OhioHealth,” he says, “We’ve been able to recruit outstanding physicians to the area. It’s been amazing to see the improvement in what we can provide. It makes me want to continue to practice here for a long time to make sure our community is well cared for.”
Together with his wife, OhioHealth family medicine physician Bela Bhatt-Koshal, DO, Dr. Koshal established a charitable fund through the OhioHealth Foundation called Athens Has Heart, which has provided nearly 20 cardiac defibrillators for local schools and sports teams. And while anyone who lives here can attest that Athens certainly has heart, it’s clear these O’Bleness Hospital physicians also have a lot of heart for the community they call home.
Where good things get their start
When Nancy Hartley’s first grandchild was born at O’Bleness Hospital in 2006, he joined a long legacy of family members who were welcomed into the world at the care site. Not only were his mother and grandmother born at O’Bleness Hospital, but so was his great-grandmother – Nancy’s mother – back in 1929, when women often stayed at the hospital up to 10 days after giving birth.
A lot has changed since then, including the introduction of private rooms and new technologies, such as the birthing simulator recently purchased by the O’Bleness Hospital Guild that Nancy has proudly served on for several years. The simulator allows physicians and nurses to train for the unexpected, such as hemorrhaging and knotted umbilical cords. Seeing a demonstration of the simulator with her fellow guild members left Nancy in awe. “I thought, even if we never did anything else, that would be an impressive contribution.”
But, of course, that’s not all Nancy does. In addition to her work with the hospital guild, Nancy has also volunteered at O’Bleness Hospital since 2011, when her second grandson started school and she found herself out of a babysitting job.
“Volunteering at O’Bleness Hospital has become one of the delights of my life,” she says. “It’s a very friendly hospital, the nurses are just outstanding, and the care level is really wonderful. The hospital has expanded and grown so much over the last few years. I’ve been able to have several surgeries here that, in the past, I would have had to go to Columbus for. It’s so nice that you can stay local, and your family doesn’t have to travel to be with you.”
We welcome you to join Nancy as a volunteer at O’Bleness Hospital. Whatever your skills or interest, we have a place for you!
Delivering compassionate expertise for moms and babies
Chelsea Young never questioned where she would deliver her baby. It was always O’Bleness Hospital. Chelsea is a Meigs County native, and she’s worked at O’Bleness Hospital since graduating from college in 2009. She now serves as senior advisor of Business Development at OhioHealth, and has developed good relationships with the hospital’s OB-GYN providers.
During an arduous 32 hours in labor, Chelsea received care from three different shifts of nurses, but she remembers one nurse in particular went above the call of duty. “Emily Latta was with me all day long,” says Chelsea. “When her shift ended at 7 PM, she went home and checked on her kids, then came back and stayed with me until 2 AM – all on her own time.” It was at that early hour that Lucy Bucher, DO, delivered Chelsea’s first child, and Chelsea and Emily began a friendship that continues to this day.
“You just find good people in southeast Ohio,” says Chelsea. “Our nurses and doctors are the same kind of people.” Compassionate care is something Chelsea has been proud to see the hospital maintain over the years.
“OhioHealth has really allowed O’Bleness Hospital to retain a small community hospital feel in patient interactions, but we now have this behemoth of clinical expertise behind us. We’ve been able to grow and fund specialties that our community needs closer to home, which is always a good thing.
After working from home for much of the pandemic, Chelsea recently returned to O’Bleness Hospital for a meeting. She was pleased to be greeted like family by an associate, Robin, who was working at the registration desk the day Chelsea was discharged from the maternity unit. It’s just one of many examples of the personal attention and care that made O’Bleness Hospital her choice from the start.
OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital
Commited to community care then, now and well into the next century.