Successful first six months

We have reached six months since Lewistown Hospital became part of Geisinger Health System. It’s a particularly challenging time in health care with new government programs and regulations driving costs upward and decreasing reimbursement. Overall, though, things are going well at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.

Geisinger made a huge financial commitment to Lewistown Hospital so that it could continue as a major provider of health services and the major employer in Mifflin County. Without this commitment, the hospital would have had to close programs and even patient care units; perhaps, radically redefining itself as an ambulatory facility only.

During the merger process, our promise to the community was to build the local clinical platform to ensure the availability of advanced specialty services in the Lewistown area. We are already treating more patients locally rather than transferring them out of the area to other facilities. We are hard at work to grow clinical programs, enhance services and invest in the hospital campus. Here are some of the improvements to date:

A new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Hegstrom, is in place and partnering with Chief Administrative Officer Kay Hamilton to lead the hospital.

We have recruited a new neurosurgeon, Dr. Bryan Bolinger, who will be joining the Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital team in July.

We have invested $1.3 million to date on capital equipment, including a hematology analyzer, vital signs monitors, metabolic cart for pulmonary, new colonoscopy scopes and a C-arm to allow for high end gastroenterology (GI) procedures, and an information technology upgrade at TLC Pharmacies.

Funds have also been released for the planning of the emergency department, radiology and Big Valley renovations, plus a CT simulator.

All Geisinger-FHA offices will be on the E.P.I.C. electronic health record in June and Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital by March 2015.

We are evaluating how best to update and expand the hospital’s neurophysiology lab capabilities and are building our relationship with University Orthopaedics. In addition, we continue to actively recruit for primary care physicians as well as specialists in neurology, pulmonary and cardiology.

Unfortunately, despite several months of negotiations with Service Employees International Union for a new contract for the hospital’s environmental services, food services and maintenance employees, we remain without a new agreement. The stumbling block is the union’s insistence that the hospital support the union’s pension plan, which we don’t believe is prudent. Our offer provided an alternative for retirement and better salary increases and benefits than the hospital’s SEIU represented employees have seen in years.

Moving forward, we will continue to fulfill our promise and work to enhance healthcare here in the Lewistown community.

Glenn Steele Jr., M.D., is President and CEO of Geisinger Health System.