To the editor:
From a local physician's perspective:
As a member of the medical staff and a resident of this community, I am very proud to be part of the Lewistown Hospital family. Over the last 30 years, I have been serving this community that I call home, because in this community I have lived the longest, even longer that my own hometown in the Dominican Republic. Therefore, I am deeply concerned about the future of Lewistown Hospital.
The health care market has been changing for the past 15 years. The hospital has had to make adjustments in order to remain open as it continues to fulfill its commitment to the community to provide the best possible care at the most affordable price. Over the last four years, the pressure of change has been intensified and in combination with economic changes, changes in reimbursements and loss of market share has led to the consideration of a more drastic, but a real and sustainable strategy.
Since 2004 to last year, the hospital has lost significant market share in Mifflin and Juniata counties; 70 percent to 58 percent down to 58 percent and 46 percent in 2011. There has been a constant decline in market share. The main reason has been lack of services in primary care and other specialties such as orthopedics. We have not been exempt from the shortage of physicians and the great recruitment difficulties that plague small community hospitals like us. The new health care plan (Affordable Care Act), signed into law by President Obama, will not help our future situation at all.
The Board of Trustees and this administration has been doing a tremendous job in keeping this hospital economically sound, despite the odds. We should be very proud of the work they have done to keep us alive and be able to continue to provide excellent care to our community. I strongly believe that it will be irresponsible to continue to deny a merger when we know that while driving on this road of independency, we are approaching a huge cliff.
I am completely behind the idea of a merger because it will be the only way we will continue to fulfill our main reason for existence: To provide this community with the best medical care possible.
I want to make it clear that the hospital will not be sold. It will merge with an organization that will share and honor our values as well as accept our core wishes to protect our employees, including the medical staff. A monetary contribution will be asked to use for renovations, equipment and recruiting more physicians in order to provide more and better services. There is significant expenditure in physician recruitment. For every recruited physician, the hospital expends around $208,000.
I understand the anxiety and the fear that the plan of a future merger can cause some sector of the Lewistown Hospital family and in particular to some of my colleagues. I hope that I will be able to infuse in them a little bit of my faith and trust that I have for this administration and the Board of Trustees as they move forward with a plan that I believe will bring greater and better things to this community.
I congratulate the Lewistown Hospital administration and the Board of Trustees for their courage and vision to develop a strategy that will keep Lewistown Hospital serving this community as it has done for the last 100-plus years.
Jose Acosta, MD