Lehigh Valley Health Network will now oversee emergency services at Blue Mountain Health System's Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton hospitals. The doctors who staff the emergency department will continue to do so.

Blue Mountain Health System announced the change in a press release late Thursday.

Under the partnership, the administrative oversight by Lehigh Valley Health Network will be similar to existing emergency medicine relationships that Lehigh Valley Health Network has with Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown and Hazleton General Hospital in Hazleton.

"Our partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network to manage the emergency departments at Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton hospitals will provide a new level of care to the patients and communities we serve," said Andrew E. Harris, president and chief executive officer of Blue Mountain Health System. "As the health care industry evolves and emergency care becomes more complex, we recognized that we needed a partner with the resources that would support our system. This will not only help us increase our level of support to existing hospital clients, but also provide those services so our community does not have to drive a distance for top-quality emergency services."

This is the newest partnership between Blue Mountain and Lehigh Valley Health Network. In 2009, they joined in an agreement to work collaboratively to enhance and improve health care for the residents of Carbon County and the surrounding areas. The organizations had worked together since 2004 to provide advanced cardiac and stroke care. They also have collaborated to care for burn patients through telemedicine.

Last February, the two announced that Lehigh Valley Health Network infectious disease specialists would begin consulting with physicians and patients at Blue Mountain Health System through telemedicine. The use of a patient exam camera, electronic stethoscope and high definition audio/video connections, mixed with other health information technologies to assess and treat patients with infectious diseases became the first service of its kind in Northeast Pennsylvania.

"As we stated in announcing our affiliation with Blue Mountain Health System in 2009, we believe health care is a local matter that is best delivered and governed by community-based boards and management," said Ron Swinfard, MD, president and chief executive officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network. "With that in mind, as the landscape of health care changes, collaboration is becoming more and more critical if we want to do things better and more efficiently. That's what this latest collaboration to provide emergency care is all about."

The Blue Mountain Health System consists of the Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, a 101-bed community hospital in Lehighton; the Palmerton Hospital, a 70-bed community hospital located in Palmerton; and The Summit, a 91-bed nursing and rehabilitation center.

The hospitals of the Blue Mountain Health System are regional providers of health care services to the people living in Carbon County and parts of Monroe, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties. The hospitals have received numerous accolades for their commitment to providing high quality health care. Combined, these facilities have been serving the region for more than 100 years.

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes three hospital facilities two in Allentown and one in Bethlehem; nine health centers caring for communities in four counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes trauma care at the region's busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Primary Stroke Center.

Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by US News & World Report for 16 consecutive years as one of America's Best Hospitals; is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing; and has been honored nine straight years among the top integrated health networks in the U.S. Lehigh Valley Hospital has been selected as a National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program. Additional information is available at lvhn.org and by following us on facebook.com/LVHealthNetwork and twitter.com/LVHNnews.