Dozens of Conemaugh Health System officials filled seats placed in the open, vaulted atrium of Memorial Medical Center Friday morning.
Hundreds more physicians, technicians and nurses lined the galleries on each of the three floors overlooking it. All were gathered – and looking on intently – for a presentation that would greatly impact the future of one of the largest clinical providers in the state.
Conemaugh leaders announced Friday that the locally based health system intends to be acquired by southern-based Duke LifePoint Healthcare at the end of the year, combining the Conemaugh brand – including Miners Medical Center, Meyersdale Medical Center and the flagship hospital in Johnstown – with the financial and operational resources of an ever-growing hospital network.
“This really is a ‘wow’ moment,” said Conemaugh board of directors Chairman Ron Vickroy as he scanned the sprawling crowd.
As part of the acquisition agreement, of which the finer details are still pending deliberation and regulatory approval, Duke LifePoint has pledged to hire all of the onlooking employees in good standing once the deal is finalized late this year.
The company also has committed to investing more than $500 million in capital projects over the next 10 years, in order to expand Conemaugh’s services and reach.
To start, Conemaugh CEO Scott Becker said time frames for establishing two new outpatient homes in Richland Township and Ebensburg will be bumped up, thanks to the capital infusion. Along with a new information technology infrastructure, Becker said the hospital will be putting $75 million to $100 million into the projects.
“This is going to put people back to work. This is the shot in the arm our community needs,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
LifePoint Hospitals CEO William Carpenter said he was very humbled by the reception he and his Duke LifePoint partners received. He promised that the new partnership will strengthen Conemaugh in the face of an ever-changing health care landscape.
“We intend to grow and make it bigger and better, and you have our commitment to that,” he told the crowd. He even invoked Conemaugh’s tagline of “Every Patient. Every Time” at the end of his speech.
A good amount of research went into the selection of a potential partner, said Dr. William Carney, Conemaugh’s acting chief medical officer. Officials spent time touring communities within the Duke LifePoint network, feeling out the culture and educational and quality ideals. He said he holds no doubt that both organizations share visions for patient care and academics.
“This relationship with Duke and Duke LifePoint stood head and shoulders above everything,” he told The Tribune-Democrat. “I have no worries that we made the proper decision today.”
Becker said he feels the two organizations share the same dedication to quality of care and education.
“I think the commitment’s to the system. We are everywhere,” he told The Tribune-Democrat. “But I think it’s really more about building the vision. The growth of health care is in the outpatient arena. That’s why we want to expand our footprint so that we can continue to bring the resources to bear so that we can get people to the most convenient location and build the clinical resource here at the main campus. It’s a win-win across the entire process.
“How excited we are – this is an incredible day in our history. We think this is going to progress all the ideas and thoughts and keep big-town medicine in small-town America.”
For more information on the acquisition, or to submit a question about the new partnership, go to www.ConemaughUpdate.org.
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.