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Commissioners praise health system's turnaround

Published August 24. 2012 05:02PM

Carbon County officials are pleased with a local business' turnaround in recent years.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek pointed out that Blue Mountain Health System, which is comprised of Palmerton and Gnaden Huetten hospitals, posted a profit of $1.1 million for the fiscal year that ended in June. This was the first significant profit posted for the business since the hospitals merged to become Blue Mountain Health System in 2004.

According to an article that appeared in the TIMES NEWS this past Saturday, in 2005, just one year after the merger, Blue Mountain Health System posted a $10 million loss. From that point on, the health system, under the new direction of Andrew E. Harris, CEO, began making changes to insure financial growth in the future.

"The commissioners at one time were very much concerned about the financial status of Blue Mountain because the county is the guarantor of the loans for the hospitals' two expansion projects," he said, adding that he was "pleasantly surprised to read the good news."

"I want to commend the board of Blue Mountain Health System; the administration, including Andrew Harris; the doctors and employees for what has become one of the most successful stories in Carbon County for some time," O'Gurek added.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, echoed O'Gurek's thoughts, saying the hospitals don't get the credit they deserve most of the time.

He pointed out that Blue Mountain Health System employs over 1,000 people.

"Everyone does a great job," he said, adding that he hopes more residents will take advantage of the local hospital facilities.

"Congratulations on a successful turnaround," said Nothstein.

In other matters, the board acted on the following items:

• Opened bids for an air conditioning system in the county adult probation office. Five bids were received with the apparent low bidder being L&S Electrical Construction Company of Summit Hill, who bid $20,455 for the project. Other bidders included R.F. Ohl Fuel Oil of Lehighton, $21,310; Master Mechanical Corp. of McAdoo, $23,015; Spotts Brothers Inc. of Schuylkill Haven, $31,700; and Bognet Inc. of Hazleton, $45,678.06. The board tabled the bids for one week to review them.

• Reappointed Richard Forgay Sr. of Lansford to the Carbon County Railroad Commission. His term will expire Aug. 1, 2016.

• Approved the fourth quarter Medical Assistance Transportation Program report.

• Approved the 2012/2013 Act 165 Hazardous Materials Response Fund Grant agreement in the amount of $7,095. The funds are used to train emergency responders and purchase supplies for HAZMAT related incidents.

• Approved a five-year grant-in-aid agreement for Juvenile Probation/Specialized Services for the period of 2012-2017 for reimbursement for Juvenile Probation staff salaries and drug testing.

• Approved an amendment on an agreement between the county and LANTA, regarding the operation and management of public transportation services in Carbon County.

• Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard congratulated the summer maintenance crew on a job well done. He received a letter from a resident who wanted to thank the crew for cutting down weeds along the railroad tracks.

Gerhard also reported that the operations at the shelter were going well under the direction of Thomas Connors, animal warden.

The shelter is still receiving numerous donations from area residents and businesses and the county is grateful for those donations.

He also noted that a pit bull was dropped off outside the shelter by its owners, even though the county is not currently accepting owner-surrendered dogs.

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