St. Joseph Medical Center appoints 2 to leadership roles

Dr. Kimberly Wolf and Wendy Clayton. PHOTOS/PROVIDED

Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center has filled two major leadership positions.

Dr. Kimberly Wolf has accepted the permanent role of vice president of medical affairs after serving as interim since February. Previously, she had served as senior medical director of quality.

And Wendy Clayton will join the Reading hospital as its new chief nursing officer, effective June 27. She will be responsible for oversight of all nursing activities and clinical operations.

“Dr. Wolf’s key focus is the ongoing coordination of clinical activities and resources to ensure the efficient delivery of health services aimed at achieving high-quality patient outcomes,” Joseph Frank, East Region hospital president for Penn State Health, said in a release.

“Her efforts will include working with nursing leadership and other clinical departments to develop clinical policies and processes that support our quality and safety goals, as well as requirements related to patient experience and engagement.”

Clayton was most recently director of nursing for the Saint John Vianney Center in Downingtown.

“We are fortunate that Wendy has chosen to return to Penn State Health as part of our executive team,” Frank said. “She is a seasoned nursing professional and diverse business leader with a passion for patient-centered care, who already has the respect of many of our nurses. Her focus on building dynamic, proactive health care teams that mitigate risk and improve patient safety will strengthen our clinical operations and enhance patient experience.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Workforce issues dominate conversation at annual hospital leadership summit 

Improving Pennsylvania’s health care workforce pipeline and the tools available to lessen the problem continue to be at the top of mind for the state’s health system leadership. 

The state’s hospital leaders met this week in Harrisburg for the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania’s Annual Leadership Summit. 

The summit marked the first time that the association’s members have sat together to discuss what they are doing since the last summit in 2019, said Andy Carter, Hospital Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) president and CEO. 

The summit spanned two days, with many of its topics centering around the workforce shortage, something Carter said is impacting all health care systems across the state in some way. 

“It is profound– we have high vacancy rates, and our hospitals are full,” he said, adding that the systems have been particularly focused on addressing shortages among nurses. “We cherish the work nurses do and we met to continue to identify strategies to retain existing nurses and create a pipeline for new nurses.” 

The Wolf Administration announced in March that it would be allocating $225 million to support Pennsylvania’s health care workforce needs of hospitals and behavioral health providers as part of Act 2 of 2022, signed into law in January. 

Summit speakers touched on a number of strategies that systems will need to look at as they tackle the problem of health care workforce shortages.  

Carter said the association and its membership are grateful for the funds but that providers now need to look toward long-term solutions. 

Solutions discussed at the summit included improving compensation among staff and in particular, understanding different generational needs among the nurse population. 

“Some are looking for a really good retirement plan because they are 55, others are looking for loan forgiveness because they are 22 and fresh out of an expensive nursing program,” said Carter. “They are working harder to customize for different needs and to organize shifts with a much keener eye to the preferences of the nursing professionals and other clinicians.” 

Carter also highlighted the workforce pipeline, noting that hospitals recognize that they will need to be creative in how they improve the pipeline by increasing access to more faculty and bettering nursing education programs. 

Behavioral Health 

Among workforce issues across hospitals, one of the more pressing issues lies in behavioral health, according to Carter. 

Some of HAP’s member hospitals are so strapped for behavioral health professionals that at any given time a hospital can have dozens of patients in its emergency department that no longer need emergency care but are suffering an acute mental health crisis. 

“These folks need specialized treatment in an inpatient or outpatient facility but there is no capacity,” said Carter. “They have to stay with us and that constrains our capacity. Right now we are essentially providing boarding services for them.” 

This month, HAP wrote on behalf of its more than 235 member organizations to the state’s elected leaders, asking them to approve an increase of state funding for county mental health programs by at least $28 million and facilitate placement in post-acute care settings by including an additional $13 million to county mental health funding. 

The letter also asked elected officials to require that Medicaid payment rates properly reflect the cost of complex cases, longer stays and resource-intensive treatments. 

St. Luke’s Monroe Campus to double in size

St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) will add a 175,000-square-foot patient care tower to its Monroe Campus in response to rising demand for its healthcare services. The $85 million, four-story addition will double the size of the existing hospital.

“This expansion will meet the continuously increasing and projected demand for our medical services,” said Don Seiple, president of St. Luke’s Monroe Campus. “This growth reflects the confidence our Monroe County neighbors have placed in our providers, a trust that we hold sacred.”

To be built on the east side of the campus, the addition will house a general medical-surgical unit with 36 beds, additional operating and procedure space and expanded outpatient programs, as well as shell space for future development.

In keeping with St. Luke’s tradition, the addition will be built with American-made steel, he said.

St. Luke’s Monroe Chief of Medicine, Dr. Douglas A. Degler, called the tower project “a timely, well-planned and critical investment that will increase our population’s access to high-quality care that it needs and deserves.”

Groundbreaking for construction is slated for spring 2022, with opening in early 2024.

The project will employ 250 construction workers, hospital spokesman said. It will also result in the creation 80 permanent, family-sustaining jobs – with more to come later as shell space is occupied.

Located just off Route 611 in Stroudsburg, St. Luke’s Monroe Campus opened in 2016. The 180,000-square-foot hospital with four stories features private patient rooms including beds for critical care patients, a large and efficient emergency room, helipad, state-of-the-art operating rooms, a cardiac catheterization lab and the most modern diagnostic technology.

St. Luke’s Monroe Campus is part of the St. Luke’s University Health System which earned Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. St. Luke’s Monroe Campus is a Level IV trauma center and has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for stroke care.

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit watchdog organization on hospital safety, awarded St. Luke’s Monroe Campus an “A” rating since opening in 2016. St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital. U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Luke’s #1 in the Lehigh Valley and #6 in the state. St. Luke’s flagship University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health nine times total and seven years in a row, including in 2021 when it was identified as the number one teaching hospital in the country.

St. Luke’s to open state-of-the-art hospital in rural Lehighton

St. Luke’s Carbon Campus hospital, set to open in late fall, will be the centerpiece of the health system’s technologically advanced, multipurpose, rural medial and wellness complex in Lehighton.

The hospital and surrounding buildings, serving a rural population, will have some of the latest technology not found in major metropolitan areas, according to a St. Luke’s statement.

The 108-acre hospital and wellness complex will give the community easy access to Level IV trauma emergency care, acute, critical and chronic medical care provided by medical experts close to home.

The three-story, 80-patient-room, 160,000-square-foot hospital will be the largest of its kind in Carbon County and the first hospital built in the county in 65 years. The campus will offer fitness facilities, health education and nutrition information.

“This complex underscores St. Luke’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of this community,” says John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s Lehighton and Carbon campuses. “At St. Luke’s we believe in providing quality services that keep people physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy and help take care of them when they are ill or injured, to ultimately enhance the health status of our neighbors.”

The private patient rooms will be outfitted with a wall-mounted, 55-inch smart TV to facilitate two-way audio/visual communication between patients and their providers anywhere, as well as patients and their family members worldwide. This beta-site installation–one of the first in the nation by AmHealth—will expand telemedicine capabilities and virtual visitation convenience, the statement said.

MedSigns will replace the typical write-and-wipe white boards in patient rooms with real-time computer system-linked digital whiteboards that will display that names of caregivers, day of the week, scheduled activities and other useful safety information.

During COVID, St. Luke’s forged a partnership with Life-Aire, a local air purification system company. Life-aire’s first-of-its-kind technology kills all airborne pathogens in a clinical environment, including COVID-19 and anthrax. Six Life-Aire air purifiers will be installed in the air ducts throughout the new Carbon hospital.

A home-grown concept for St. Luke’s, the TechConnect help center in the lobby, will be staffed by an attendant who will give free assistance to patients, visitors and community members struggling to learn or use personal digital or medical symptom-monitoring devices or apps, according to the statement.

Within a year of opening the main campus, a three-story, 50,000-square-foot medical office building will be built and connected to the hospital. Cancer, cardiac, orthopedics care, pain management and physical therapy services and physicians’ offices will occupy this facility, along with a full fitness center and more. A fitness walking trail will encircle the complex.

A lavender and sunflower meditation and healing garden will also be installed.

St. Luke’s implants new device to help woman’s failing heart work better

St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first hospital in Northeastern Pa. to implant a new pacemaker-like device, the Optimizer, into a patient that prompts her heart muscle weakened by heart failure to squeeze more strongly with each beat, giving her more energy and quality of life.

The Optimizer consists of a small electrical generator, surgically implanted under the skin of the upper chest, and two metal wires, or leads, that are inserted into the lower heart chamber, called the ventricle. Generator pulses timed precisely to heartbeats provide “cardiac contractility modulation,” (CCM™) a proprietary clinically proven, new, FDA-approved heart failure therapy that helps the heart squeeze oxygen-rich blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.

Armenia Arroyo, of Bethlehem, says she is feeling “much better” since St. Luke’s cardiologist Steve Stevens, MD, inserted the Optimizer under the skin of her chest and connected its leads to her heart on May 21.

“I walked 3,800 steps, (nearly two miles)” said Arroyo, 63. Before having the device implanted, she was able to walk only a block before becoming tired. She said heart failure is a family condition she inherited from her father; she has had it since she was 40.

“This treatment is a game-changer for heart failure patients who have advanced symptoms and a very poor prognosis,” says Dr. Stevens.

His colleagues at St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center, Darren Traub, DO, Sudip Nanda, MD, and Hardik Mangrolia, MD, will also perform the procedure.

“According to extensive research, the Optimizer improves quality of life, changes one’s outlook and has the potential to significantly reduce deaths from Class III heart failure,” Dr. Stevens, said.

Heart failure is a debilitating and often fatal condition in which the heart muscle, weakened following a heart attack or years of high blood pressure, worsens and is unable to adequately supply oxygen-rich blood to the body. It affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans and nearly 26 million people worldwide. About 700,000 U.S. patients with Class III heart failure, whose medicines fail to relieve their life-limiting symptoms, could benefit from the new device, he said.

Persons suffering with advanced heart failure often struggle with progressively worsening symptoms that include reduced energy, shortness of breath and frequent hospitalizations as their heart pumping function or “ejection fraction” declines.  A normal ejection fraction is 60 percent.

According to Dr. Stevens, patients with an ejection fraction of 25-45 percent, who don’t get sufficient relief from their medicines, would likely be candidates for the Optimizer device.

This breakthrough heart-improvement technology, FDA approved in 2019, has been clinically shown not only to relieve symptoms but also to help the heart muscle strengthen over time, much in the way a person’s physical exercise enhances their muscle tone and work capacity.

Dr. Stevens and his fellow cardiologist/electrophysiologists will implant the battery-powered device in a sterile, operating room-like environment. Following an overnight stay at St. Luke’s Bethlehem hospital, Arroyo went home and soon begin to experience better heart health, including more energy. She recharges the generator weekly at home, which takes an hour.



Lehigh Valley Health Network breaks ground on Carbon County hospital

Rendering of the planned Lehigh Valley Hospital-Carbon in Mahoning Township. SUBMITTED


Lehigh Valley Health Network held a virtual groundbreaking today as earth-moving equipment arrived on site of its new Carbon County hospital on Blakeslee Boulevard in Mahoning Township.

Lehigh Valley Hospital-Carbon is being constructed on property cattycorner to the Walmart Superstore.

The 100,000-square-foot hospital will have 18 private inpatient beds, a 12-bay emergency department, two operating rooms, two procedure rooms and four observation rooms, with plans to expand in the future.

A medical office building and a helipad for the transportation of critical patients are also planned as part of the overall project.

Terrence Purcell, LVHN’s vice president for market development and a native of Mahanoy City, will serve as president of Lehigh Valley Hospital−Carbon.

He said some of the services that will be provided at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Carbon include inpatient care, inpatient and outpatient surgery, rehabilitation, diagnostic cardiology, and radiology including MRI, CT and ultrasound.

“We will also have an infusion center and around-the-clock care at our emergency department,” Purcell said.

The health network announced its plans to build the Carbon County hospital in 2019. The hospital is expected to open in the spring of 2022.

LVHN begins second phase of Hecktown Oaks hospital construction

Rendering of the planned Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks in Lower Nazareth Township. SUBMITTED –


The second phase of construction is set to begin on the new Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks in Lower Nazareth Township. The new hospital is scheduled to open in the summer of next year.

Lehigh Valley Health network said phase two will add an additional 95,000 square feet of space. This part of the construction project is scheduled to be complete by next fall.

Phase two of the hospital project will include a four-story bed tower with 30 additional patient beds.

Only one of the four stories will be used initially, the other three will be held for future growth needs.

The tower will connect to the hospital to the north as well as the hospital’s helipad.

The helipad will be used for transferring emergency patients. A MedEvac helicopter will not be based at the site, however.

With the expansion, the campus on Hecktown Road just off Route 33 will include a 201,000-square-foot hospital, 35,000-square-foot Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, 61,000-square-foot medical office building and an emergency room caring for adults and children, including an area dedicated just for children.

Bob Begliomini, president of LVH–Muhlenberg and LVH–Hecktown Oaks, said that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital is being built with state-of-the-art infection control and patient safety.

Some of the safety measures include, HEPA filters and UV lights within the rooftop HVAC system to control and eliminate bacteria, bacteria-resistant flooring, hand-sanitizing stations and Plexiglas dividers at the registration area.

“We’re taking extraordinary care at LVH–Hecktown Oaks to install the most advanced infection control technology as a commitment to patient safety,” Begliomini said in a release.

LVHN places final beam at Hecktown Oaks hospital campus

A beam, digitally signed by supporters, is put in place for a virtual topping-off ceremony at Lehigh Valley Hospital’s new Hecktown Oaks campus. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Lehigh Valley Health Network on Friday had a virtual topping off ceremony for its new health campus in Lower Nazareth Township.

The last beam was placed for Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks, which is located just off or Route 33 along Hecktown Road.

LVHN colleagues provided digital signatures that were included on a large vinyl sticker affixed to the beam.

The campus will include a 106,000-square foot, two-story hospital, a 35,000-square-foot Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute and a 61,000-square-foot medical office building.

The facilities, set to open in the summer of 2021, will have surgery, emergency, orthopedic, cancer, advanced imaging and diagnostic testing services.

The emergency room will care for adults and children, with an area dedicated just to children.

All private patient rooms will have natural light and feature views of the innovative healing garden. State-of-the-art operating suites and services provided by Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence, along with advanced imaging services, also will be located at the new hospital.

The medical office building will have primary and specialty care, including a Joint and Spine Center, care from Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, rehabilitation services, and care provided by Breast Health Services.

Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute will offer cancer care, including infusion services and access to innovative clinical trials through its membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, as well as patient-focused multidisciplinary clinic care that provides oncology patients with personalized recommendations for treatment.

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes eight hospital campuses, three in Allentown, one in Bethlehem, one in East Stroudsburg, one in Hazleton and two in Pottsville.

LVHN relaxes hospital visitation guidelines

Lehigh Valley Health Network is relaxing some of its hospital visitation guidelines.

In a press release, the network said the following guidelines are now in place.

  • Labor and delivery and postpartum areas: One partner/support person may stay the duration of the hospitalization.
  • Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU): One set of parents or authorized representatives may visit.
  • Hospitalized patients age 18 and younger: One set of parents or authorized representatives may visit.
  • Patients with developmental disability, major neurocognitive disorder or dementia: one designated support person essential to patient care may visit.
  • Non-COVID-19 medical surgical/low-level monitoring units: One healthy support person may visit daily for the duration of the hospitalization.
  • Patients ready to be discharged from the hospital: One healthy support person may visit to assist as necessary.
  • Emergency department: One healthy visitor may accompany a patient.
  • Non-COVID-19 patients who are at end-of-life: Two healthy visitors may visit at a time.
  • COVID-19 patients who are at end-of-life: Two healthy visitors my visit at a time.

Before being allowed into hospital facilities, visitors will have their temperature taken and be screened for symptoms of COVID-19.

Those who have had COVID-19 must be free of fever for at least three days and it must be at least 10 days since symptoms began.

All visitors must wear a mask and will be provided with one if they do not have one.

Visitors will only be allowed in the patient room and not other parts of the hospital.

No one under 18 will be allowed to visit unless it is an end-of-life situation.

No visitors will be allowed in intensive care units, same-day surgery centers, or the networks three designated COVID-19 Free facilities, LVHN Tilghman and the two Coordinated Health facilities.

LVHN said the visitation guidelines and restrictions will be reviewed weekly and will be updated based on the latest information.

New LVHN hospital campus to be named Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks

Lehigh Valley Health Network administrators break ground on newest hospital, LVH-Hecktown Oaks in Lower Nazareth Township. Photo by Dawn Ouellette –

Lehigh Valley Health Network broke ground Dec. 6 on its new hospital campus along Hecktown Road in Lower Nazareth Township.

Located off of Route 33, the new, two-story hospital will be named Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks.

The name was inspired by the hospital’s location off of Hecktown Road, along with the oak tree as a symbol of strength and protection, according to Brian Nester, president and CEO of LVHN.

Nester announced at the groundbreaking that the president for LVH-Hecktown Oaks will be Rachel Lefebvre , current vice president of operations at LVH-17th Street in Allentown.

“I am looking forward to bringing Lehigh Valley Health Network’s advances services and technologies to patient care in this area…,” LeFebvre said.

Dr. Pat Toselli, chief medical officer for LVH-Muhlenberg in Allentown, was introduced as chief medical officer for LVH-Hecktown Oaks.

The hospital is expected to open in summer of 2021 and include care provided by the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical excellence, and Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital.