The entire Carbon County and surrounding area should take pride in the recent recognition award given to Palmerton Hospital & Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital currently operating as Blue Mountain Health System.

It is nothing short of miraculous how far these two institutions have come in less than a decade. History will show that a few years ago these two institutions were on the brink of bankruptcy…costs were escalating, reimbursement was inadequate, competition between the facilities was harmful and each facility was the opposite of "too big to fail"…they were literally "too small to survive."

Thanks to the vision of both boards of trustees and the dedication of individuals who checked their egos and bias at the door and entered into honest negotiations for merger of these facilities which was seemingly an impossible dream merger became a reality. Yet the boards of these two long-standing institutions decided that the GOAL of having control of their own health care in Carbon and surrounding counties was more important than long-standing differences. As is the case in most disputes, the similarities were greater than the perceived differences, and the merger was consummated.

There were as usual the skeptics who said it could not be done. There were those who were more interested in manufacturing myths and fueling discouragement than finding solutions to SAVE OUR HOSPITALS. There was undoubtedly legitimate concern for the success of the merger, not the least of which was a lack of funding, lack of management, lack of resources….but there was one factor that was not lacking… DEDICATION…a dedicated board, staff and employees of both hospitals, many of whom had worked there for 30 plus years.

This is a success story and many in the community may not fully appreciate what it took to come together as two different cultures with a history of competitive spirits. Yet they did, and in 2012 they received TWO OF SEVEN awards from the State of Pennsylvania Department of Health for Excellence in Health Care Compliance. These two awards were out of 244 hospitals in the State of Pennsylvania, an Olympic feat for these hospitals.

Just thinking about this award should evoke a sense of pride and a community spirit that demonstrates what can be done when people unite for a common cause. There are lots of individuals who should be recognized individually and collectively. Recognition must be given to the board of trustees, the community residents that rallied to support the hospitals, the management team that has been outstanding, but most of all the employees of both hospitals, many of whom never lost faith or confidence in the hospitals and their survival. If there are two individuals that need special recognition and they are Mr. Conrad Biege, who served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees during these very difficult times, and Mr. Drew Harris, who was and is the turn-around CEO of Blue Mountain Health Systems. Under his leadership Blue Mountain Health System has turned from being on the brink of failure to Award Winning Recognition.

We are truly blessed in Carbon County with two hospitals that are emerging as facilities that our residents can turn to with pride in knowing that the same dedication that enables the hospitals to survive is working to provide them with top-quality care… local residents serving local residents.

Louis Sportelli, D.C.

Member, Blue Mountain

Board of Trustees