The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Editorials

May 5, 2013

Hospital partnership makes sense

— Windber Medical Center officials see a need for a partnership with a larger organization.

The hospital isn’t alone. Acquisitions, mergers, affiliations and partnerships are happening regularly to our west and east and involving larger hospitals in Pittsburgh and Danville and even health insurance providers such as Highmark and UPMC.

It’s a matter of survival No. 1, but more importantly for patients, it’s a mater of providing access to the latest technology and procedures and the finest doctors. Hospitals will describe it as positioning for the future.

We applaud the foresight of Windber’s leaders and we commend their honesty and frankness by sharing their plans with their employees and the community they serve.

Officials said a community meeting would be held in June and that employees would be encouraged to “attend and ask questions.”

“While our hopes are to remain as independent as possible, we believe that we can be stronger with some type of partnership,” said board Chairman David Klementik and hospital President and CEO Barbara Cliff in a letter last week to hospital workers.

Who that partner could be or with whom talks are being held was not revealed.

“It is unknown what that will look like as we are early in the process, but we wanted to let you know that it is actively being considered,” the letter continued.

Windber Research Institute, known nationwide for its work, certainly would make WMC especially appealing for a larger medical organization.

Last month, the medical center announced an affiliation with Geisinger Health System in Danville that offered state-of-the-art treatment for Windber’s stroke patients. That certainly fueled speculation that the Montour County facility could be in the mix for an even larger role.

Cliff, however, told our Randy Griffith that there is “no relationship” between the new stroke telemedicine program and the strategic partnership search.

“We are not looking for anything further with Geisinger,” she said.

Ask Conemaugh Health System officials about ongoing rumors of structure changes there and you’ll get acknowledgment that they always are looking to improve their services and their financial standing.

“I would estimate approximately 100 percent of hospitals in Pennsylvania are talking to others,” Cliff said.

Windber, Somerset and Conemaugh already collaborate on patient care. Windber, you might recall, at one time was part of the Conemaugh system, so it would seem doubtful talks are budding there again.

But who knows?

Our region is fortunate to have medical facilities and physicians and other medical providers second to none.

We’re also fortunate to have hospital leaders and physicians who are doing everything possible to give those needing treatment the best opportunities available, even if that includes sending them to what many see as world-class hospitals within a short traveling distance.

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