Board endorses hospital merger

LEWISTOWN – The impending merger between Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger Medical Center received a ringing endorsement from the Mifflin County Commissioners on Thursday.

During their semi-weekly business meeting, the commissioners approved a resolution endorsing and supporting the merger of Lewistown Healthcare Foundation and Geisinger Healthcare Foundation and urged all remaining state and federal officials to approve the merger as soon as practicable so as to “allow the citizens of Mifflin County to enjoy the benefits of the merger.”

The resolution noted the merger enjoys wide support throughout the community.

“The continued viability of Lewistown Hospital is of vital importance to the people of Mifflin County in terms of assuring that quality health care services will continue to be available to all,” Commissioner Otis Riden read from the resolution. “The merger will provide needed capital resources to Lewistown Hospital to enable it to improve its facilities and services and recruit and retain additional physicians in specialties not currently available in Mifflin County and strengthen services currently provided. The merger will benefit the citizens of Mifflin County by assuring the viability of Lewistown Hospital and the continued availability in the community of quality health care services provided in conjunction with Geisinger.”

The other commissioner present at the meeting was in agreement.

“Over 30 years ago, three local physicians launched the Geisinger-Lewistown clinic,” Commissioner Kevin Kodish said. “Today, that practice flourishes in a modern facility, serving thousands of area residents. That local clinic opened the door for local residents to forge positive relationships with countless doctors at Geisinger’s main facility in Danville.

“With this merger, Lewistown Hospital will receive major facility upgrades, including renovations to patient care rooms, as well as a greatly improved emergency department. In addition, our school of nursing will continue to operate.

“For decades, small community hospitals could not afford specialists, forcing patients to travel outside the region for care. Geisinger’s presence and resources in Mifflin County will bring enhanced specialties close to home for many people. I applaud the Lewistown Hospital Board of Directors for conducting a thorough search process and arriving at an agreement with an outstanding hospital. Our area’s people will benefit for years to come.”

Riden then summed things up nicely.

“The board of commissioners looks at this as a win-win for Mifflin County,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Sunderland was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.

In other business, the commissioners adopted an additional resolution declaring it is desirable for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Mifflin County for the Geisinger Authority to undertake the issuance of health system revenue bonds not to exceed $800 million for the purpose of refinancing outstanding bonds to finance future projects, including the acquisition of land, the construction, acquisition, renovation and installation of capital improvements, and the acquisition and installation of equipment for all of Geisinger’s health care facilities and its affiliates.

In a related matter, the commissioners then passed a resolution approving Geisinger’s plan of financing the above-mentioned bond issue.

Several Geisinger Healthcare Foundation officials, including Dave Cutright, director of treasury operations for Geisinger Health System, were on hand to answer any questions from the commissioners and the general public. Cutright said, “This (bond resolution) is a requirement under the Municipal Authorities Act. It is for the benefit of the residents here.”

Cutright added that the county is not responsible for any re-payment of the bond issue.

In other business Thursday, the commissioners:

Approved purchase of service agreements for use, if needed, by Children & Youth, with Pyramid Health Care Inc., Duncansville; Family Care for Children and Youth Inc., Milton; and David G. Ray, M.Ed., Lewistown.

Approved an agreement with Juniata Valley Bank to increase the aggregate Automated Clearing House Network (ACH) credit limit.

Approved request to begin a paving and storm water project at two locations in Armagh Township.

Approved the resignation of Charlie Vogt as a caseworker in the Children & Youth department effective, Aug. 30.

Appointed David E. Pennebaker of Belleville to fill the unexpired term of Susan Heimbach on the Mifflin County Planning Commission.

Promoted Ashley Baxter to Children & Youth caseworker supervisor effective Aug. 26.

Hired Dylan Kauffman for summer youth employment at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility through the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit.

Promoted Stacey Dorman to juvenile probation office supervisor, effective Aug. 12.

Promoted Hillary Houser to adult drug court probation officer, effective Aug. 12.