LEWISTOWN - Geisinger Health System (GHS) and Lewistown Hospital have signed a non-binding letter of intent to explore ways the organizations can work together to benefit health care in Lewistown and surrounding area.

"The health care environment - not only here in the Juniata Valley, but throughout Pennsylvania and across the country - continues to evolve," said Lewistown Hospital President and CEO Kay A. Hamilton. "Lewistown Hospital is an integral part of the community, and it is our responsibility to take the appropriate steps and best position the organization to provide quality medical services to our patients well into the future."

By signing a letter of intent, Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger can explore the possibilities of working together in greater detail. This process could take several months.

"Geisinger is always open to exploring ways to improve the health and well-being of the people we serve and best meet the needs of the community," said Geisinger President and CEO Dr. Glenn Steele Jr. "We now have an opportunity to determine together how best to accomplish this goal for the people of the Lewistown area."

Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger already work together in a number of ways, including the hospitalist, tele-stroke, tele-echo and eICU programs at the hospital. The multi-specialty Geisinger-Lewistown physician practice has been used since 1983, and a second primary care practice is located in Juniata. Geisinger acquired Lewistown Cardiology Associates in October 2011 and Juniata Valley Gastroenterology Associates and Endoscopy Center in May 2012.

"The signing of the letter of intent is an important and positive step forward in our efforts to not only keep our hospital open, but to explore enhancements to our clinical programs," said Hamilton.

Local mergers

Bloomsburg Health System merged with Geisinger Health System July 1, when Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital, Geisinger-Bloomsburg Health Care Center, Bloomsburg Physician Services and Columbia Montour Home Health became Geisinger affiliates.

The merger with Bloomsburg Hospital had been in the works since September 2011, but was delayed when the Attorney General's office filed an antitrust complaint. The complaint claimed Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital, along with the other acquisitions, would create a monopoly.

In a final order approved by U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner, both sides agreed Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital would have a new board of directors for eight years after the merger. Once the eight years has elapsed, Geisinger has the sole discretion to either maintain Bloomsburg Hospital as a treatment facility or use the campus for other purposes.

Shamokin Area Community Hospital became Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital, a campus of Geisinger Medical Center, when it merged with Geisinger Jan. 1. Geisinger also merged with Community Medical Center in Scranton earlier this year.

About Lewistown Hospital

Lewistown Hospital, a nonprofit organization, is a 123-bed acute care community hospital serving the 80,000 residents of Mifflin and Juniata counties and members of the contiguous counties of Centre, Perry, Snyder and Huntingdon. Established in 1905, the hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, wellness and community services while employing more than 1,000 full-time and part-time employees. Its medical staff consists of 128 physicians and allied health practitioners representing family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, infectious disease and general/cardiovascular surgery specialties. For more information, go to www.lewistownhospital.org.