New Castle News

Local News

April 4, 2014

Our Opinion: Inevitable changes at Jameson are part of bigger world

NEW CASTLE — This is an era of consolidation for medical facilities.

Actually, it has been for some time, as small hospitals and even medical practices have been gobbled up by larger entities.

In western Pennsylvania, part of this is driven by a declining population. It wasn’t so many years ago, for instance, that New Castle was served by two hospitals.

But St. Francis Hospital ceased operations and its building and services were absorbed into Jameson Health System. Various factors fed into that move, but population was one of them.

Meanwhile, increasingly specialized medicine, greater mobility and the economic efficiencies of consolidation prompted other changes. In many communities, once locally operated and controlled hospitals became parts of larger health systems.

Until now, New Castle’s Jameson Hospital has remained a distinct entity. But this week, the health system’s chief executive officer, Doug Danko, confirmed it is looking at a variety of options.

Essentially, these would include joint ventures or agreements to become part of a larger system. The full consequences of such a move are unclear, because the details have yet to be worked out.

But change can make people uncomfortable — especially when it involves a major institution such as the community’s hospital. For many individuals, news that Jameson is pursuing such options is unwelcome.

That includes employees, patients and others who have dealings with Jameson.

The reality, however, is that change is inevitable. Even if Jameson retains its existing structure, its operations will evolve over time. Changes have happened in the past and will continue to occur in the future.

To what degree New Castle, or even officials at Jameson, can control these changes is problematical. The operational structure of health care beyond New Castle’s borders will not allow this community to exist as an island.

Significantly, Danko mentioned the impact of the Affordable Care Act on operations at Jameson and elsewhere. Without the ideological baggage that normally accompanies this subject, Danko noted the law seeks to control health care costs and changes the focus of treatment toward patient outcomes rather than procedures instituted.

Inevitably, cost control and stronger measurement efforts lead to consolidation and the need for different health care providers to pursue cooperative efforts.

Jameson is part of this mix. While we cannot say with any certainty how this will play out, we’re sure there will be a local impact.

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