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Building projects at Chambersburg, Waynesboro hospitals put on hold

November 25, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Reduced borrowing power coupled with a decline in cash investments has prompted Summit Health to postpone major building projects that were supposed to start in the spring at Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals.

"Even if we went to the marketplace to borrow 'X' number of millions of dollars, we couldn't. The market won't allow it," said Norman B. Epstein, president and CEO of the parent organization of both hospitals.

In Waynesboro, the expansion would have meant single-patient rooms and a larger emergency department. Chambersburg's construction would have featured a new six-story patient tower with almost 200 private rooms.

Both initiatives remain on hold indefinitely.

"At this point, we'll be watching and waiting," Epstein said.

"What we're seeing nationwide is hospitals our size, that are even strong financially, there's no credit market. ... Certainly Chambersburg and Waynesboro are affected by that," said Patrick O'Donnell, Summit Health's senior vice president/CFO/COO.

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Epstein addressed both hospitals' boards of directors on Tuesday to talk about the economy and accomplishments from fiscal year 2008.

Among those accomplishments is digital imaging technology made available for all five Summit Health mammography locations. Not only are the images clearer and more detailed, but they can be manipulated through rotation and contrasting, Epstein said.

Along with implementing the imaging this year, the Rhonda Brake Shreiner Women's Center in Chambersburg was designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.

Combined, the emergency departments of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals served almost 77,000 patients.

"That's an increase of nearly 9 percent from the previous year," Epstein said.

Leaders in the medical community have been debating whether an increased number of uninsured Americans are using local emergency rooms for their primary care.

"I think it's a real trend throughout the country. Whether we're seeing it here or not, we haven't been able to judge," Epstein said.

He said Waynesboro Hospital has been treating Maryland residents seeking shorter wait times and higher patient satisfaction.

When Epstein addressed the board at Waynesboro Hospital, a yellow "#1" hung behind his head. Waynesboro Hospital was recently selected as the Best Place to Work in Healthcare nationwide by Modern Healthcare magazine.

"The only thing I can say is, 'Wow,'" Epstein said.

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