COAL TOWNSHIP - Geisinger officials cut the ribbon Friday morning to officially open the new $1.4 million Geisinger Ophthalmology-Shamokin clinic on the campus of Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital (G-SACH).

The new facility combines state-of-the art technology with the experience and familiarity of Dr. William LeMasters, who has been practicing ophthalmology in Shamokin for nearly 28 years. Officials praised Geisinger Health System for making this commitment to the Shamokin campus.

"With today's opening, Geisinger has spent a total of $9 million in investments to this hospital," said Thomas Harlow, G-SACH's chief administrative officer.

During his remarks at Friday's ceremony, Harlow thanked those who had a hand creating the clinic, including construction crews, Geisinger's executive staff, LeMasters and Dr. Herbert J. Ingraham, director of Ophthalmology for the Geisinger Health System.

"Both doctors had the vision - pun intended - of what this clinic should be, and we are extremely grateful for that," Harlow said.

Ingraham echoed Harlow's sentiment in his remarks to those attending the ribbon cutting.

"This clinic truly exemplifies the commitment that Geisinger makes for quality care close to home," he said. "There is a high demand for ophthalmology services in lower Northumberland County, and we plan to be helping the area's patients successfully overcome the many eye diseases that affect our aging population."

Latest equipment

The new 4,000-square-foot clinic, located within the Geisinger Speciality Care building on the G-SACH campus, will offer additional speciality care to patients in the Shamokin area. The clinic expands facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders and diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, corneal disease, retina disease, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The clinic will feature the latest in diagnostic equipment, including new lasers and scanning tools, with two new doctors providing outreach specialty services in the Shamokin clinic.

The clinic features an expanded waiting room and four exam rooms featuring exam chairs that will slide away to accommodate patients in wheelchairs.

Several sophisticated diagnostic tools such as the Heidelberg OCT and Fluorescein Angiography, which is used for optic nerve and retinal imagine in diagnosing retinal disease, are being used in the Shamokin area for the first time.

"In the past, patients would have to travel to Danville for such tests," said operations director Marsha Morgan. "Now, it is right here in Shamokin."

The clinic also features rooms in which minor procedures, such repairing retinal tears and detachments, in house.

'Very pleased'

LeMasters, the elder statesman of the clinic, has been a part of the Geisinger Health System since 2012. The doctor completed his residency at Geisinger in 1985 and opened his comprehensive practice for ophthalmology, cataract and implant surgery practice in Shamokin, formerly seeing patients at his office on Commerce Street.

"I'm very pleased on how it all turned out and am looking forward to serving my patients here," LeMasters said.

It will be the new home for LeMasters and his staff of six technicians.

"I've been working for Geisinger for a while," said technician Sandy Krebs, "and I transferred to work here and this new clinic."

"It's like I've died and gone to heaven with this new facility," clinic nurse Barbara Patrick said.

In addition to LeMasters, two new providers to Geisinger Medical Center, oculoplastic and orbital surgeon Dr. Gregory Notz and retina specialist Dr. Benjamin Hale, will also provide outreach specialty services in the Shamokin clinic.

Hale got his first look at the facility Friday and walked around with a smile on his face.

"The equipment is top-notch and the whole clinic looks great," he said. "It's going to be a pleasure working here."