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LVHN touts Carbon relationship

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    Brian Nester, Lehigh Valley Health Network president and chief executive office, announced plans Thursday for a new, $65 million hospital along Route 443 in Mahoning Township. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

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    Terry Purcell, Lehigh Valley Health Network’s vice president for market development and president of the future Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH) −Carbon, describes plans for the facility, scheduled to open in fall 2021, during a press conference Thursday in Mahoning Township.
    BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published August 02. 2019 12:36PM

The health care landscape in Carbon County changed forever on Sept. 13, 2017. On that date, Blue Mountain Health System announced its merger with St. Luke’s University Health Network.

The move, Lehigh Valley Health Network officials said this week, left them disappointed, but not down and out when it came to health care in the local community. On Thursday, LVHN announced its plans to build a new $65 million hospital along Route 443 in Mahoning Township.

The 89,000-square-foot facility, to be called Lehigh Valley Hospital−Carbon, will be constructed on 35 acres of open farmland on the north side of Blakeslee Boulevard, catty-corner to the Walmart Superstore.

Initial plans call for an 18-bed hospital that includes all private rooms for inpatient care, and a medical office building.

“It didn’t mean we were going to just walk away,” Brian Nester, LVHN’s president and chief executive officer, said during an event Thursday at the Mahoning Valley Ambulance Association building on Mill Road.

“We were already taking care of so many patients here. We were here to stay.”

Nester said before the merger, LVHN had about 30 percent of the local market share when it came down to which health system people were choosing for their care.

Still, it kept its distance due to a strong working relationship with what was then the Blue Mountain Health System, which had hospitals in Lehighton and Palmerton.

“You never saw a Lehigh Valley Health Network billboard in your backyard,” Nester said. “We did not want to compete with Blue Mountain. It was your hometown health system. We would have loved to continue to work with Blue Mountain, but they made a different decision and it didn’t work out.”

LVHN expects to break ground on its project next spring, and opening is anticipated in the fall of 2021. The hospital is expected to create about 150 new jobs in the network.

Nester said the hospital is expected to provide a multitude of services including radiology and advanced imaging, including MRI; inpatient and outpatient surgical services; a full-service emergency department including a helipad; cardiology (Lehigh Valley Heart Institute); breast health services; rehab services; expanded cancer services (Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute) as the only health system in Carbon County affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center giving patients access to the latest treatments and clinical trials; and complete telemedicine services allowing for consults among clinicians across LVHN.

Terry Purcell, LVHN’s vice president for market development, will serve as president of the new hospital.

Purcell joined LVHN in September 2018 after previously serving as president with St. Luke’s University Health Network and at the former Blue Mountain Health System for 12 years where his last role was senior vice president of operations.

Community benefits

After Thursday’s event, local politicians weighed in on LVHN’s announcement.

State Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, said he welcomes the addition of the hospital and the benefits it could bring the community.

“It’s bringing jobs back to the area and that’s something we all support,” Heffley said. “It also keeps health care local and in the community.”

LVHN’s hospital is the second major medical facility announced for the area in the past few years. St. Luke’s is planning a new hospital, slated to be built along Harrity Road near Route 209 in Franklin Township.

“We’re seeing a health care surge right now with the major health care entities coming here and I think it’s wonderful for the community to have those options.”

Heffley said the LVHN hospital is in a strategic proximity to Panther Valley, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Palmerton, giving local residents close access to medical care.

“When an emergency strikes, sometimes you only have minutes,” Heffley said. “The fact that we are going to have more emergency room beds in Carbon County is a great thing.”

Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein also touted the economic benefit of multiple hospitals coming to the region.

“Health care in Carbon has a lot to be desired here in the last few years, but things are really starting to take off,” Nothstein said.

He’s hopeful that the two hospitals are just the start of an economic development boom in the next two to three years.

“With this, you’re probably going to see medical offices coming in and other businesses, such as restaurants are going to want to be close to these facilities,” Nothstein said.

“My prediction for Routes 209 and 443 is that you are going to see a lot of development to help support these hospitals.”

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