To the editor:
The availability of quality health care is surely one of the most critical needs facing smaller, rural communities today, including Mifflin County. In chatting with friends, family and people on the street, since the announcement by Lewistown Hospital of its intent to "merge" with Geisinger, I am learning of much concern, anxiety and uncertainty about this development.
Having lived and worked in this community all of my life and serving for several years on the Lewistown Hospital Board of Directors, I take this means for sharing my experience and thoughts on the issues.
I begin by expressing my great appreciation for the members of the Hospital Board of Directors, who devote, without compensation, their talents and countless hours providing guidance, for the very capable administration and staff, who make the facility such a valuable community asset, and and for our fine, caring local physicians and other health care professionals.
Geisinger is currently serving our area and provides a valuable complement to the health care delivery system. I do recall, however, that over the years the relationship of our hospital and local physicians with Geisinger was primarily adversarial, for reasons that may or may not be relevant today.
While not privy to all the factors prompting the recent merger decision, I suspect that finances and the inability to attract sufficient physicians to the community top the list. These have been issues for as many years as I care to remember. However, with the dedication and creativity of so many members of the community, they have been resolved and the hospital preserved.
We must also examine the decision-making process likely to prevail at a huge, distant entity, such as Geisinger. Will decisions be in the best interests of our community or favor the financial goals of the parent? We all know not all health care services are profitable. The proposed merger will leave our health care delivery dominated by a powerhouse, serving as insurer, physician, caregiver and hospital. When consumers have limited choices, the result is typically mediocrity and higher costs.
If, in fact, an affiliation is the only alternative for this community, let's seek a partnership, not a takeover, in which we have input as to what is best for us.
This is a great opportunity for the media to provide a valuable service to the community. Get the facts, report them impartially and provide a forum for all those affected and concerned to contribute to a solution that works best for current and future generations.