The Pennsylvania De-partment of Health is banning a Schuylkill County hospital from admitting patients and performing operations.

On March 23, officials at Saint Catherine Medical Center Fountain Springs in Ashland were informed by the Department of Health that it is being banned from any admissions into the hospital.

On Friday, the ban was expanded to also include surgeries, as well as emergency and out-patient procedures.

According to the Republican-Herald of Pottsville, which received a copy of the letter sent to Saint Catherine's last week, the ban by the state department was imposed as a result of an investigation regarding the hospital's compliance to state licensure and federal Medicare and Medicaid regulations.

The Department of Health found that the hospital was in serious violation in several areas including surgical units and the operating room which posed potential life-threatening problems that could compromise the health and safety of its patients.

The investigation also revealed that Saint Catherine's did not have the proper surgical equipment or supplies for surgical procedures it was performing. The hospital must now provide evidence that it has taken measures, such as providing enough supplies and properly inspected equipment in the operating room; as well as submit a plan of corrections and show that the violations cited by the investigation no longer exist and patient health is not at risk, before the ban can be lifted.

Saint Catherine's officials can appeal the department's ban to the Health Policy Review Board, but according to the Republican-Herald, has not done so to date.

The current ban does not include Saint Catherine's long-term care facility, but the state is asking that a temporary manager be appointed at the facility because of its financial ties to the hospital, which is also experiencing financial uncertainty at this time.

No word has been released on what the current ban means for Saint Catherine Medical Center employees.

In addition to the bans, a lawsuit was also filed early this week by PPL Electric Utilities against Saint Catherine's in county court. The details of the lawsuit were unavailable.

The hospital also held meetings early last week with employees to discuss the financial health of the facility because problems with paychecks had been occurring.

Saint Catherine Medical Center has been serving Ashland and the surrounding communities since 1883, when it opened its doors to miners, railroad workers and textile workers who were injured on the job.

Over the next century, the hospital evolved into a facility where families could receive both in and out-patient medical care.