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St. Luke’s: Palmerton ER will be urgent care

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    ABOVE: St. Luke's Hospital Palmerton Campus.

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    John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton campuses, gives a presentation on near-future developments happening at two Carbon County hospitals. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS

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    A slide revealing what the future St. Luke’s campus in Franklin Township will look like. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS

Published April 20. 2019 06:14AM


The St. Luke’s campus in Palmerton is losing its emergency department, and it’s gaining an urgent care.

That’s the news John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton campuses, delivered this week during a public presentation at the Blue Shamrock Golf Club in Palmerton. The presentation’s title was “Keeping Care Close to Home.”

In his delivery, Nespoli said that Palmerton’s emergency department is limited in what it offers, forcing some emergency medical services to transport patients to other area facilities. That, coupled with a declining number of people using the emergency room, led to the decision to re-purpose Palmerton’s ER.

“Most physicians — in fact almost all physicians don’t want to cover multiple emergency departments in multiple counties. It’s a quality-of-life issue, and it’s a quality of care issue, too,” Nespoli said.

“It’s better care and gives us the power to recruit,” he said.

The plan introduced Tuesday includes converting Palmerton’s ER into St. Luke’s Network’s 18th Care Now Center by July 1 of this year, as well as revamping the emergency department at Gnaden Huetten. That would entail expanding emergency room capacity, acquiring new equipment and renovating the department’s interior.

“We did meet with our employees at Palmerton last week. We did round the clock town halls,” Nespoli said.

“The good news is everybody at the Palmerton hospital will get a job, a good job, a comparable job, with comparable pay and benefits, either at the Care Now in Palmerton, or at the expanding emergency department at Lehighton, or somewhere else in the St. Luke’s Network,” he said.

St. Luke’s officials said not only will the urgent care facility be more affordable for residents (Nespoli explained that the average out-of-pocket cost will drop from $125 for emergency room visits to $25 for urgent care ones), it will be more convenient as well.

Palmerton’s Care Now will come equipped with 15 of St. Luke’s top distributed medications, available at a reduced cost. Patients will also be able to schedule appointments for future care following their urgent care visits.

“It’s just a great, enhanced patient experience, at less cost to the community,” Joseph Pinto, vice president of network operations at St. Luke’s, said. “We look at this as a win-win.”

Nespoli also hinted at an outpatient center to be built in Palmerton, but location and details for that project have yet to be announced. He added that St. Luke’s is also looking into building apartments on the Palmerton Hospital’s campus for independent senior living.

“As we roll out this plan over the next couple of years, our belief is that it will be rare that the people living in Carbon County will have to leave Carbon County,” Nespoli said.

“We see Carbon sort of as the center of a region, so not only do we believe that what we’re doing in the next couple of years will keep Carbon residents close to home … we believe that many people from other counties will come into the county for care,” he said.

St. Luke’s plans to break ground on its third campus in Carbon County this summer, Nespoli said. That hospital, which will be located off Harrity Road in Franklin Township, will stand three stories high and include a 22-bed emergency department.

“We’re not talking 10 years. This is a two — maybe three year game plan,” Nespoli said. “Parallel this development with intense physician recruitment, I think we’re going to have something very special.”

At the end of the presentation, Peter Kern, Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce president, applauded St. Luke’s plan, saying he believed it was made with “a great deal of foresight.”

“I think what you’re doing is the future,” Kern said.



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