Allentown News

Published on March 14th, 2018

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Opinion: Do the Poconos Really Need Three Hospitals?

Do the Poconos really need three hospitals? This is the question that many area residents, including myself, have been asking lately.

First, a little background: St. Luke’s University Health Network has been delivering health care services to the people of Monroe County for over two decades, most recently at its Monroe Campus which opened in October 2016. St. Luke’s newest hospital was established in response to frequent requests of Monroe County health care providers who believed the Poconos needed more than one hospital. As the article noted, before the opening of the St. Luke’s Monroe Campus, Monroe County had fewer hospital beds and physicians per capita than other Pennsylvania counties, and fewer than most neighboring counties as well.

What a difference St. Luke’s Monroe Campus – the Poconos’ second hospital, built with American steel and St. Luke’s know-how – has made! As a long time practicing Monroe County emergency services physician, I am pleased to report not only that the new St Luke’s facility has enabled the region to meet its need for more beds and physicians, but also that for the first time in a century it has offered patients in the Pocono region a choice for their health care. Indeed, patients have begun to vote with their feet – a fact clearly demonstrated by the Monroe Campus’ success. In its first year, the hospital cared for more than 32,000 patients, and it is on track to care for an even greater number in its second year.

At the same time, St. Luke’s introduced the Poconos to a much higher standard of care. St. Luke’s is the only health care network in central-eastern Pennsylvania to earn Medicare’s five-star rating (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. Mirroring Medicare’s findings, data from Truven Health Analytics show that compared to the existing hospital in East Stroudsburg, St. Luke’s provided more timely emergency care and required fewer hospital re-admissions, resulting in significantly better mortality rates.

This is all the more remarkable considering St. Luke’s University Health Network’s consistently demonstrated lower costs. In 2017, St. Luke’s expense per adjusted discharge was considerably less – $700 – than that of the East Stroudsburg hospital, according to Truven. To place this into perspective, if Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono in East Stroudsburg were able to duplicate St. Luke’s lower costs, then patients, employers, health insurance companies and the community at large could collectively save more than $128 million over 10 years. Think of what a $128 million economic stimulus package could do for the Pocono region!

By the same logic, the proposed third Monroe County hospital – if similar to LVH-Pocono, with its track record of higher costs – makes no economic sense. Today, hospitals have to be able to provide “value” – that is, better outcomes for the money spent.

So, do the Poconos need three hospitals? No – which is why I believe the real question is whether building a third hospital is the right thing to do.


By Dr. Peter Favini
Originally Posted on Pocono Record, view original article here.


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