The first patients served in Lancaster County’s brand new, 132-bed, $375 million hospital will be welcomed Oct. 3, according to Penn State Health.
Up until now, the opening of Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center in East Hempfield Township had been described only as this fall. Work on the structure was complete about a month ago.
Now workers are installing furniture and equipment, setting up and testing sophisticated diagnostic machines, and preparing a wide array of rooms for the exams, surgeries, consultations and births that will happen at the six-story, 341,000-square-foot hospital at State Road and Harrisburg Pike just east of Landisville.
At the same time, the 400-plus employees who will work at the hospital starting opening day are being oriented to the facility and the planned workflow, trained on Penn State Health’s culture and practice, and run through dress rehearsals for a wide variety of scenarios such as what to do about a medical emergency in the parking lot or how to handle a baby delivered outside the front entrance.
“It’s so much more than orientation; it’s learning the building,” said Claire Mooney, the hospital’s chief operating officer who led LNP | LancasterOnline on a tour of the building last week.
Mooney is in charge of assembling and training the staff at the hospital she said will eventually grow to around 1,000 as services are expanded after the hospital is up and running. “At the end of the day it will be the people that make the process work,” she said.
Mooney said the commitment to having staff members who are focused on patient care complements the hospital’s physical design, which prioritizes the ease and convenience of visitors. Those include small touches such as QR codes on wayfinding signs to help orient visitors and waiting areas that include places to work on a laptop.
“It’s meeting people where they are with a lot of design,” Mooney said.
Joe Frank, president of the east region for Penn State Health, says the new Lancaster Medical Center is meant to complement, but not replace, Hershey Medical Center, taking some of the pressure off that hospital while offering a convenient location for a growing — and aging — population in Lancaster County.
“It right sizes the system 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 by delivering that Hershey standard but do 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 bigger share of Lancaster County’s health care market, long dominated by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, the county’s biggest employer.
Penn State Health made its first splash there in 2017 by purchasing the county’s largest group of independent physicians, Physicians’ Alliance Ltd., and then in 2019 it opened the Lime Spring Outpatient Center off Rohrerstown Road. This past June the health system opened Penn State Health Children’s Pediatric Center at 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 which will offer primary, specialty and acute care, including the advanced care and clinical trials offered at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the health system’s academic hub.
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 services and outpatient services offered at physician offices in an attached medical building. A helipad atop the six-story building will be a new landing spot for helicopters operated by Life Lion, Penn State health’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 that will eventually be offered, such as cardiac surgery.
“We’re not going to do it all day one because you really can’t,” Frank said. “Standing up something like this is an enormous project, so we’re on that wide path to get there.”
Frank said he expected the full gamut of services to be offered within a year of opening but emphasized that the focus will be to roll things out when they are ready, and when the staff is fully trained.
“Great physicians are a given, that’s what we do at Hershey. We’re a medical school and we train super talented folks,” Frank said. “But what we’re driven to do is to make this a nursing-centric culture here. This is a hospital run by nurses for other nurses. If we get that right … that’s going to be one of the differentiators for us.”