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Editorial: Geisinger deal just icing on Holy Spirit's well-made cake

Health care systems across the midstate are making significant capital and strategic investments. It's all aimed at keeping themselves strong and preserving options for patients while maintaining the highest standards of care.

Holy Spirit Health System is no different. This year was already a landmark for Holy Spirit as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. A few months ago, it opened a walk-in urgent care center next to its main facility in Camp Hill and established a more efficient, state-of-the-art data center. Last week, it announced plans to create a 20,000-square-foot family health center in Hampden Township that should be ready next spring.

All told, since 1963, Holy Spirit has grown from a small building on its current primary site to encompass a nationally recognized comprehensive system with facilities in nearly a dozen midstate communities employing about 2,600 people.

On Monday, Holy Spirit and Danville-based Geisinger Health System announced their intent to pursue affiliation, a move that giant Geisinger emphasized is a sign of Holy Spirit's vibrant health.

Geisinger, with six hospitals, 19,000 employees and an estimated $6.1 billion impact on the state economy, has been in the business lately of rescuing community hospitals. It's no secret that in today's rapidly changing health care landscape, to be small is to fear the future. And rightfully so. It's not enough to be good. Delivery of medical care today is all about economies of scale, deep pockets and efficiency.

But with Holy Spirit, Geisinger's CEO emphasized, the motives for affiliation are different. There's no need for a "turn-around," a change in management structure or a merger. Holy Spirit, its long-time CEO confirmed, will remain independent.

But Holy Spirit, the more obvious beneficiary in the proposed arrangement, will be able to tap into the larger system's resources, expertise and clout.

Geisinger, in turn, will gain a foothold in a desirable market it's been eager to enter for more than a decade. These days, even being big doesn't mean a hospital system can stand still. Geisinger over the years has gone vertical, offering everything from primary and specialty care to research, medical training and even its own insurance. It needs to keep those things growing as health care delivery continues to evolve. The midstate, it noted, has an "extraordinarily vital demographic."

What's also extraordinary is the range of outstanding health care institutions available to midstate residents across the region. This proposed affiliation will help preserve that by ensuring continued competition and choice.

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