The first patients served at the brand new, 132-bed, $375 million Lancaster County Hospital will be welcomed on Oct. 3, according to Penn State Health.
Until now, the opening of Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center in East Hempfield Township had only been described as this fall. Work on the structure was completed about a month ago.
Now workers are installing furniture and equipment, setting up and testing sophisticated diagnostic machines and preparing a wide range of rooms for the exams, surgeries, visits and births that will take place in the six-story, 341,000-square-foot hospital on State Road. and the Harrisburg Pike just east of Landisville.
At the same time, the 400-plus employees who will work at the hospital starting on opening day are being oriented to the facility and planned workflow, trained in Penn State Health culture and practice, and running through dress rehearsals for a wide variety of scenarios such as what to do in case of a medical emergency in the parking lot or how to handle a baby born outside the front entrance.
“It’s much more than orientation. he’s learning the building,” said Clair Mooney, the hospital’s chief operating officer who led the LNP | LancasterOnline on a tour of the building last week.
Mooney is responsible for assembling and training staff at the hospital, which she said will eventually grow to about 1,000 as services expand after the hospital is operational. “At the end of the day it’s going to be the people who make the process work,” he said.
Mooney said the commitment to having staff members focused on patient care complements the hospital’s physical design, which prioritizes guest convenience and comfort. These include small touches such as QR codes on wayfinding signs to help orient visitors and waiting areas that include laptop workspaces.
“It’s meeting people where they’re at with a lot of planning,” Mooney said.
Joe Frank, president of Penn State Health’s eastern region, says the new Lancaster Medical Center is intended to complement, but not replace, Hershey Medical Center, taking some of the pressure off that hospital while offering a convenient location on the growing — and aging — population in Lancaster County.
“It gets the system right in a very smart, efficient way,” Frank said. “It gives (Hershey Medical Center) more capacity for critically ill people, while we’re able to be more cost-effective here providing that Hershey standard, but doing it in this kind of environment.”
Growing from day 1
The new Lancaster Medical Center is the centerpiece of Penn State Health’s ambitious strategy to carve out a larger share of Lancaster County’s health care market, which has long been dominated by Penn State Lancaster General Health, the county’s largest employer.
Penn State Health made its first splash here in 2017 by buying the county’s largest independent physician group, Physicians’ Alliance Ltd., then in 2019 opened the Lime Spring Outpatient Center off Rohrerstown Road. Last June the health system opened the Penn State Children’s Health Center in a former Toys ‘R Us at Harrisburg Pike and Route 30.
At Lancaster Medical Center, Penn State Health is spending $375 million to develop a new hospital that will offer primary, specialty and acute care, including the advanced care and clinical trials offered at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the academic center of the health system.
Inpatient services will include cardiac catheterization, cardiac surgery, general surgery, and labor and delivery. There will also be an emergency department as well as imaging and outpatient services offered in a doctor’s office in an attached medical building. A helipad at the top of the six-story building will be a new landing spot for helicopters operated by Life Lion, Penn State’s critical care service.
When it opens in October, Lancaster Medical Center will have fully staffed and operational emergency departments and general hospital services, but will not open with the full range of services it will eventually offer, such as cardiac surgery.
“We’re not going to do it the whole first day because you really can’t,” Frank said. “Getting something like this up is a huge task, so we’re on this broad road to get there.”
Frank said he expected the full range of services to be offered within a year of opening, but stressed that the focus will be on rolling things out when they’re ready and staff are fully trained.
“Great doctors are a given, that’s what we do at Hershey. We are a medical school and we train extremely talented people,” Frank said. “But what we’re driven to do is make it a nursing-centric culture here. This is a hospital run by nurses for other nurses. If we get it right … that will be one of the differentiators for us.”