St. Luke’s breaks ground on new Carbon Campus

St. Luke’s University Health Network has broken ground on its new St. Luke’s Carbon Campus.

Oct. 3 groundbreaking ceremony for St. Luke’s Carbon Campus. – submitted

Situated on more than 100 acres at the intersection of Fairyland and Harrity roads in Franklin Township, the $80 million campus will provide a range of specialty services in a three-story, 80-bed, 155,000-square-foot hospital.

“What a great day for Carbon County,” said John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten Campus in Lehighton, at the Oct. 3 groundbreaking ceremony. “We are breaking ground for the creation of a regional medical center that will provide comprehensive state-of-the-art care for the residents of this county for generations to come.”

SLUHN reports that the new hospital will be built with American steel, and will house 20 emergency department exam rooms, three operating rooms and two operating room procedure rooms.

Specialty services will include trauma, cardiology, neurology and radiology, among others.

Construction of the Carbon Campus is expected to employ over 200 construction workers and construction is expected to be completed in the next two years.

St. Luke’s is also entering the final stages of construction on two other new hospitals and a new hospital wing, the St. Luke’s Upper Bucks Campus outside Quakertown, the Geisinger St. Luke’s Hospital in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County, and the Women and Babies Pavilion at the Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township, all expected to open this fall and winter.




Diagnostic breast imaging experts coming to St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten campus

Diagnostic breast imaging experts will be now be available at the St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Gnaden Huetten Campus on Fridays, according to a press release.

Women in the Lehighton area who need diagnostic breast imaging can schedule an appointment between 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the campus, located at 211 N. 12th St. in Lehighton.

Diagnostic breast imaging is appropriate for women who have had a screening mammogram and whose results indicate a need for a diagnosis via breast imaging.

“We are proud of our highly qualified breast imagers, three of whom are fellowship-trained,” said Dr. Joseph P. Russo, section chief of women’s imaging for St. Luke’s. “They will rotate and bring their wealth of imaging experience to the Gnaden Huetten campus each week.”

At the breast centers, breast health nurses guide patients through every step of the diagnostic process. In many cases, a same-day or next day biopsy can be performed so that women can get their results as fast as possible.

“St. Luke’s is committed to providing women with great access to the highest quality breast imaging and is focused on getting those results to patients as quickly as possible to reduce a women’s anxiety,” said Michele Giletto, Network Director of Women’s Imaging. “We are excited to be bringing this expertise directly to the Gnaden Huetten campus.”

Patients at Gnaden Huetten can also look forward to a new mammography suite opening in the fall, according to Giletto.


SLHN, Temple University Hospital partner for lung transplant services

St. Luke’s University Health Network will partner with Temple University Hospital for advanced lung disease and lung transplant services, according to a news release.

The affiliation will allow patients living in the Lehigh Valley streamlined access to Temple’s experienced lung transplant team and pulmonology specialists close to home.

This announcement builds on previously established affiliations between Temple and St. Luke’s for heart, liver, kidney, pancreas and bone marrow transplants.

“This affiliation formalizes the coordinated, individualized care that we already provide our patients,” states Dr. Livia Bratis, chief of pulmonary medicine for St. Luke’s. “Together with Temple, we are making it easier for those patients who would normally need to travel for transplant services.”

Through the Temple Advanced Lung Disease and Transplant Program at St. Luke’s, patients living in the Lehigh Valley who may need a lung transplant will be pre-screened and cared for at St. Luke’s by both Temple and St. Luke’s pulmonary specialists.

St. Luke’s Pulmonary and Critical Care team cares for individuals who have both acute and chronic lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, and pulmonary hypertension.

If a transplant is recommended, patients can be referred to Temple for further testing and transplant surgery. Upon discharge from Temple, post-transplant care will be shared between St. Luke’s and Temple specialists, with patients being able to return to St. Luke’s for the majority of their care after transplant.

St. Luke’s pulmonary physicians will also be on-site at Temple University Hospital to see patients and participate in clinical training.

 Additionally, St. Luke’s has three fellowship-trained general thoracic surgeons, who perform procedures such as lung resections, bronchial and pleural procedures, and anti-reflux surgery using advanced minimally invasive techniques.

“We are pleased to be able to expand our affiliation with St. Luke’s University Health Network to now include advanced lung disease and transplant services, bringing a collaborative approach to  patients in the Lehigh Valley,” said Michael Young, president and CEO of Temple University Hospital. “This program offers many benefits to patients, including an experienced transplant team and a robust research program that is pioneering methods to make donor organs more available and avoid post-transplant complications.”

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network is a regional nonprofit health system employing 15,000 people and providing services at 10 hospitals and over 320 outpatient sites throughout the greater Lehigh Valley.

Opioid crisis, telehealth are hot topics at LVB Health Care Symposium

Panelists speak on the state of health care today during a discussion moderated by LVB publisher Mike O’Rourke

Managing health care costs while providing the best possible patient care was the theme of the day for the health care movers and shakers who gathered for Lehigh Valley Business’ Health Care Symposium 2019.

Representatives from St. Luke’s Care Network, Geisinger Health Plan, Highmark Inc., and others, discussed our national health care crises before an audience of industry insiders Aug. 1 at DeSales University.

At the forefront of the conversation was the opioid crisis, and how employers are managing health care for employees with substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

While opioid-related claims have declined for Geisinger Health Plan, according to Perry Meadows, medical director of government programs for Geisinger Health Plan, opioid abuse remains a challenge.

“Most overdose deaths are not due to a single substance,” he said.

Overdose deaths are typically a combination of opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants, according to Meadows.

Meadows also stated that the use of methamphetamines is growing as new opioid regulations make opioids harder to get access to.

One audience member, himself an employer, raised questions about how to afford drug abuse and mental health treatment for the younger family members of his employees.

“You have to balance the cost to benefit ratio,” said Meadows, who also opened up about substance abuse struggles in his own family.

Meadows then commented that 18-to-26-year-olds are not the costliest when it comes to health care. The most expensive claims are for those between the ages of 45 and 65, he said, who are increasingly battling anxiety, depression and addictions.

Affordability as a whole was an overarching subject of all the discussions, with the consolidation of local health care institutions into larger health giants raising concerns about rising costs.

“The reality is if those mergers didn’t happen, there would be communities without health care or hospitals,” said Kenneth Bertka, president of clinical integration at St. Luke’s Health Network, claiming that as the health care networks grow larger, the institutions are able to provide care to areas that had once been health care deserts.

Telehealth was offered up as another way to provide health care to areas that do not have easy access to it, and as our growing dependence on smartphones and technology allows us all to live a more remote lifestyle.

“We are expecting more,” said Benjamin T. Edelshain, vice president of clinical design and innovation for Highmark, Inc, who explained that health care customers are measuring their health care experiences against digital interactions with Amazon and Google.

“How do we use those engagement channels to reduce the total cost of care?” he questioned.

He offered virtual health care kiosks as one solution, digitally enabled to complete health assessments, installed in areas where health care is hard to reach.






St. Luke’s to offer robotic procedure for GERD

St. Luke’s University Health Network now offers a minimally invasive robotic surgery for patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a July 2 news release.

The surgery uses a LINX device, which is a string of magnetic titanium beads on a wire that are custom fit to each patient, to treat GERD and to repair hiatal hernias which are associated with the disease.

“This procedure has significantly fewer complications of recurrence, slippage or gas bloating than the traditional fundoplication,” said Dr. Dustin Manchester, a thoracic surgeon at St. Luke’s, who added that the new procedure does not alter the patient’s gastric anatomy, as traditional procedures for GERD can.

Dr. Dustin Manchester, thoracic surgeon with St. Luke’s University Health Network –

During the procedure, the LINX device is placed surgically at the gastroesophageal junction. The magnets help keep the lower esophageal sphincter closed to prevent reflux. When a patient swallows, the LINX device opens temporarily to allow food and liquids into the stomach.

Most patients stay in the hospital for one night and are discharged to home the following day. As this procedure is performed minimally invasively with small incisions, most patients have very little pain and can return to work within a few weeks.

Sandra Cahill, 46, of Wilson Borough was the first St. Luke’s patient to have the LINX device implanted robotically on April 19. Dr. Manchester also repaired a hiatal hernia that had wrapped around Cahill’s stomach and diaphragm.

“Before the procedure, I always felt like there was something in the back of my throat,” she said. “After I ate, I had stomach pains. Now, I feel a lot better. The healing process was very smooth with no issues…”

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network is a regional non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and over 320 outpatient sites throughout the greater Lehigh Valley.




St. Luke’s to offer expanded care at Gnaden Huetten ED, open urgent care facility in Palmerton

St. Luke’s University Health Network will offer expanded care at the Gnaden Huetten emergency department in Lehighton. The health network will also open a new walk-in urgent care facility on July 1, St. Luke’s Care Now, in Palmerton, to replace the emergency department there, according to a June 17 press release.

“These developments will allow St. Luke’s to offer the most cost-effective and highest-quality comprehensive care possible for the patients of both St. Luke’s Palmerton and Gnaden Huetten campuses,” said John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton campuses.

St. Luke’s Care Now facilities are designed to be quicker, less expensive and more convenient than a traditional emergency room, according to the news release.

St. Luke’s Care Now facilities offer call-ahead scheduling, walk-in X-ray, lab services and on-site access to common prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, the patient may be transported to the expanded emergency department at the Gnaden Huetten Campus, according to the release.

The expanded emergency department will include new equipment and a refurbished interior.

In addition, St. Luke’s is expanding patient transportation services for Carbon County, including a critical care transport ambulance to Jim Thorpe and a transit wheelchair van for both Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton.

“Consolidating emergency services at one site, along with investing in new facility upgrades, technology and transportation and bringing new physicians to Carbon County will improve care for our community,” Nespoli said.

St. Luke’s University Health Network is a regional nonprofit health network with over 15,000 employees, headquartered in Bethlehem. The network operates at locations throughout the greater Lehigh Valley, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe and Schuylkill counties and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.



St. Luke’s announces fifth fitness and sports facility, specializing in sports training

St. Luke’s has launched its newest fitness and sports center, one designed especially for athletes.

Terry Bender stands with David Akers, Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame Kicker. Both are partnering with St. Luke’s on a new sports and fitness facility. – Dawn Ouellette Nixon

The 30,000 square-foot building is located on Union Boulevard in Allentown and is expected to open in September.

The objective of the $3 million to 4 million project is to offer an indoor facility for youth up through high school to improve their athletic skills, according to details released at a May 31 press conference at the St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center on Cetronia Road in Allentown.

“It will be different from our other four centers in that its primary focus will be on sports skill development and sports field training,” said John F. Graham, senior network administrator for fitness and sports performance at St. Luke’s University Health Network.

The building will include 18,000 square feet of turf-field space with goals for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and other sports, along with baseball and softball cages, in addition to a spectator area running the length of the fields.

“I’ve seen some schools in Allentown who have three teams going on one field at one time; that’s not right,” said Terry Bender, an investor in the project. “We as business people aren’t giving the youth what they deserve. We are stepping up to the plate with St. Luke’s to provide for the community.”

David Akers, former Hall of Fame kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles, is another investor in the project.

“Health care is a great opportunity for investment,” he said. “We all get older and get injured. Physical therapists, physicians, training, it will all be in-house and affordable. You don’t have to go to multiple places. It’s a community effort.”

“As an entrepreneur,” he continued, “when you find a need out there, you want to jump on it, and since St. Luke’s is already doing this and it’s growing so much, why not be a part of it.”

For Lehigh Valley corporations, the center will offer wellness programs with specialized training designed to improve employee health.

“It’s been shown statistically that the employee who exercises spends $1,500 less a year on health care costs than the employee who doesn’t,” said St. Luke’s Graham.

Tactical fitness training for first responders will also be available, in addition to traditional fitness components for the general public, including group classes and senior sports like bocce and paddle tennis.

The Allentown facility joins other St. Luke’s fitness centers in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Phillipsburg.





Coalition panel focuses on improving health care value

What creates value in health care?

Dr. James Balshi, chief medical information officer with St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem. – Photo submitted

For industry executives gathered at the 6th annual Healthcare Systems Engineering Symposium at Lehigh University, the answer is simple: lower costs and better health.

The panel discussion on value in health care was the final leg of the May 21 symposium, organized by the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare.

“We need to drive costs down and improve outcomes,” said panel member Tom Sibson, chief transformation officer with Bayada Home Health Care, headquartered in Moorestown, New Jersey.

According to Sibson, improving patient outcomes can mean reducing the length of hospital stays, lowering mortality rates and increasing a patient’s ADLs or activities of daily living, meaning improving a patient’s ability to feed and groom themselves and complete basic housework.

As the conversation turned towards ways to reach those goals, the solutions offered included reshaping the basic unit of sale.

“Let’s move away from rewarding the health care provider for completing tasks and towards being paid for producing better outcomes,” said Tami Hutchison, senior director for Remedy Partners, a health care consulting company based in Norwalk, Connecticut,

Standardization of care between health care providers was brought up as another important stepping stone to improving outcomes.

Standardization means that patients will receive the same kind of research-tested treatments for their medical issues, regardless of the physician or facility delivering the care.

Standardized medical records are helping providers get there, said Dr. James Balshi, chief medical information officer with St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem.

Balshi singled out Epic, an electronic medical record system that is used by many local health care systems, including St. Luke’s University Health Network, Lehigh Valley Health Network and Tower Health. The records can be shared seamlessly, he added.

“We are seeing each other’s records and trying to match the way care is delivered,” he said.