LEWISTOWN - More than 100 community members, staff and administration of the new Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital cheered as Kay Hamilton, hospital president and CEO, declared success at the joining ceremony held Friday morning.
Though the Geisinger Health System and Lewistown Hospital merger became official on Oct. 28, the joining ceremony served as the first public address made by the two entities.
"Well, we did it," Hamilton said as the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. "We did it together. This is a historic moment."
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
From left: Susan Fetterman, Vice President, Division of Medicine, Geisinger Health System; Cathleen Veach, M.D., Medical Director, Family Health Associates; William F. Herkert, Chairman, Community Advisory Board, Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital; Kay A. Hamilton, Chief Administrative Officer, Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital; Glenn Steele, Jr., M.D., PhD, president and chief executive officer, Geisinger Health System; state Sen. Jake Corman; and Linda Reese, a long time employee of Lewistown Hospital; cut a ribbon celebrating the joining of Lewistown Hospital with Geisinger Health System during a special ceremony held Friday outside the Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital Surgical Center in Lewistown.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Hamilton said, Lewistown Hospital began investigating a merger with a larger health care entity. The hospital finally settled on Geisinger in December 2012 - a process she described as similar to riding the Wild Mouse roller coaster at Hersheypark.
"Our board of directors foresaw that sometime within the next few years Lewistown Hospital would not have the resources it needed to continue to serve this community," Hamilton said. "In the face of opposition they set out to ensure the survival of this hospital, resulting in this ceremony here today."
The first steps the hospital will take as Geisinger-Lewistown, besides a change in signage and logo, is a roughly $36 million update to the emergency and imaging departments, Glenn Steele Jr., Geisinger president and CEO, said.
"I think this is a jewel here and it's going to be a privilege to work with the leadership to bring great care close to where patients live," Steele said. "We are going to be talking about a couple program areas to build and think about how the facilities can be modernized and expanded around those programs."
The planning process has already begun on these projects and Hamilton expects the updates to begin within the next two years.
"As we move forward we will update you, our community, as to what we are doing ... and get your input as well," Hamilton said. "While we have changed our name we have not changed our calling we remain a community hospital."
Steele agreed that one of Geisinger's goals moving forward is to remain responsive to the community, depending on the hospital's board of directors for guidance.
"We do want to be responsive to the community and we're delighted the board is here to tell us how we're doing, and make sure that, if we make a mistake or two, to let us know quickly," Steele said. "We look forward to adding to program here, not replacing."
And, Steele promised, if patients have insurance they like, they will be able to keep it.
The joining ceremony was closed with a traditional cutting of the ribbon as guests were treated to refreshments.