The first patients served at the brand new 132-bed, $375 million hospital in Lancaster County 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 was only described as this fall. Construction work was completed about a month ago.
Workers are now installing furniture and equipment, setting up and testing sophisticated diagnostic machines and preparing a wide array of rooms for the examinations, surgeries, consultations and births that will take place in the six-story, 341,000-square-foot hospital at State Road and Harrisburg Pike right on east of Landisville.
At the same time, the more than 400 employees who will work at the hospital from opening day are being oriented to the facility and planned workflow, trained in the Penn State Health culture and practice, and going through dress rehearsals for a wide variety of scenarios such as what to do in a medical emergency in the parking lot or how to handle a baby born outside the main entrance.
“This is much more than an orientation; studies the building,” said Claire Mooney, the hospital’s chief operating officer, who leads the LNP | LancasterOnline on a tour of the building last week.
Mooney is in charge of assembling and training staff at the hospital, which she said will eventually grow to about 1,000 as services expand once the hospital is operational. “At the end of the day, people are going to 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 ease and convenience for visitors. These include small touches like 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 eastern region for Penn State Health, says the new Lancaster Medical Center is designed to complement but not replace Hershey Medical Center, taking some of the pressure off that hospital while offering a convenient location for growing — and aging — population in Lancaster County.
“It right-sizes the system in a very smart and efficient way,” Frank said. “It gives (Hershey Medical Center) more capacity for critically ill people, while we can be more cost-effective here by providing that standard to Hershey, 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 capture a larger share of the health care market in Lancaster County, long dominated by Penn State Lancaster General Health, the county’s largest employer.
Penn State Health made its first foray here in 2017 by purchasing 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 Health Children’s Pediatric Center in the 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 urgent care, including advanced care and clinical trials offered at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the health system’s academic center.
Inpatient services will include cardiac catheterization, cardiac surgery, general surgery and childbirth. There will also be an emergency department, as well as imaging and outpatient services offered in 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 equipped 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 all day because you really can’t,” Frank said. “Building something like this is a huge project, so we’re on this broad road to get there.”
Frank said he expects the full range 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 staff are fully trained.
“Great doctors are a given, it’s what we do at Hershey. We are a medical school and we train super talented people,” Frank said. “But what we’re forced to do is make this here a nurse-centric culture. It is a hospital run by nurses for other nurses. If we get this right … that will be one of the hallmarks for us.”