The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

June 23, 2013

Rx for medical center | Windber facility's independence touted

JOHNSTOWN — The diagnosis for Windber Medical Center is somewhat encouraging.

“We are going to remain the Windber community’s hospital as long as it’s in the cards,” David Klementic, the board’s chairman, said after the hospital’s annual community meeting on Tuesday.

While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the hospital’s financial health, it’s better than what many feared would come out of the meeting: That Windber Medical Center would close or merge with a larger system.

Instead, Windber is going to do its best to remain independent. But there is a chance that it will need to join forces with another medical provider.

“Being small, we can’t do everything on our own,” CEO Barbara Cliff told the 100 or so people gathered at Arcadia Theater. “We are exploring strategic partnerships. Our goal is to continue to be as independent as we can, but also to continue to be an acute care hospital in Windber.”

We would like nothing more than for Windber Medical Center to remain an independent institution. It gives the hospital the freedom to be run differently than facilities that are part of a larger network. That allows Windber’s administrators to do what they feel is best instead of following a system-wide mandate.

That isn’t to say that being part of a larger system is a bad thing, just that having an independent facility in our area gives patients another option.

And we believe that the more options that people in our area have when it comes to health care the better. That’s why we would support Windber Medical Center’s decision to join a health system if it comes to that.

Think of it as a surgical procedure. There is some risk associated with even the most basic procedure, so if there is no need to do it, the patient is better off without it. But, if the threat to the patient’s safety is too great, there becomes a time when the risk of not performing the surgery is greater than going ahead with it.

That’s how we see the Windber Medical Center situation. If at all possible, we’d prefer that it remains independent; but if the risk to the center becomes too great, we’d rather it join a health system than shut altogether.

Cliff said that the hospital has been and continues to be in discussions with several organizations about possible affiliations or cooperative efforts.

“We just want you to know this is something we are exploring,” she said. “We need you and you need us.”

We do need Windber Medical Center, whether it’s as an independent institution or as part of a broader group.

We’ll let it up to the experts to make the decision as to what is best for the hospital’s health.

 

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