To the editor:
I am a member of the Lewistown Hospital staff and serve on the Medical Executive Committee. I graduated from the Geisinger residency program in 1977. I think that Geisinger is a great hospital and they have a large representation in our community. They are all excellent doctors. It is our primary referral center.
I have no ax to grind with anyone. I have no turf to protect. I have no malice against anyone and I enjoy the highest esteem from the members of our community. I have spent all my adult life in Lewistown delivering babies. All my children were born and grew up locally and are extremely successful in their careers. I am the happiest man around.
When I learned that our hospital is seriously perusing a merger with an outside entity, I was totally shocked. I have been told that we are financially sound at all our executive meetings for years. We are one of the best 100 hospitals of our kind in the nation. I learned that negotiations to form a merger with an outside entity have been going on for many years even when our financial condition was very good. What was the motivation to merge or sell to an outside health care entity that caused us to start these negotiations in great secrecy? Kauffman Hall, a consulting firm hired by the hospital, has confirmed that we are not in financial trouble and there is no rush to find a White Knight to come to our rescue,
Lewistown Hospital is a charitable community hospital. It is our community's most valuable essential asset and biggest employer. It has been governed by board members chosen by the community for more than a century. Lewistown Hospital has the greatest physicians, nursing and support staff. We have survived world wars, great depressions and recessions, and Hurricane Agnes which caused a terrible flood that destroyed our major industrial base.
The idea of selling or merging with an outside entity and losing total community control of the hospital is preposterous and is not acceptable. The outside entity will be willing to do anything to get their hands on the hospital resources but once the time limits expire on the agreed terms they will dictate their own agenda. This will create havoc and great economic loss. Community members can petition the board members to vote against any merger and keep local control of our most important asset of the community. The community needs to learn more about the terms of the proposed merger. If the community at large is convinced that merger is the best solution then I am with them and will do everything to have a smooth transition. We need more community dialogue.
Raj Malhotra, MD