Penn State Health takes advantage of its two Cumberland County hospitals 

Ioannis Pashakis//May 6, 2022

Penn State Health takes advantage of its two Cumberland County hospitals 

Ioannis Pashakis//May 6, 2022

Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center and Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center on its opening day last October. PHOTO/PROVIDED

In 2019, Penn State Health announced that it had signed a letter of intent with Danville-based Geisinger Health to purchase Geisinger Holy Spirit in East Pennsboro Township. 

Purchasing the hospital provided an interesting opportunity for the Hershey-based medical system, which had announced in 2018 that it would be building its Hampden Medical Center just five miles away from Holy Spirit. 

Penn State Health opened Hampden last October. The center features 110 private inpatient beds, an emergency department, physician offices and more. The facility cost the health system over $350 million to build. 

When Hampden opened, the newly named Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center had already operated under Penn State Health for nearly a year. 

The proximity of the two medical centers has made the system adopt a “two-hospital strategy” to ensure that it is utilizing the specialties of each hospital to its fullest. 

“When the opportunity came for us to bring Holy Spirit into our family at Penn State Health, we took a pause and said let’s inventory what our plan is and parlay that into what we do well at Holy Spirit,” said Don McKenna, West Shore regional hospital president at Penn State Health. “We really wanted to take advantage of the niche that each facility brings.” 

An early example of the strategy was the moving of Holy Spirit’s labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care (NICU) services to Hampden Medical Center.  

The physicians and nurse midwives that currently delivered babies at Holy Spirit, as well as the hospital’s neonatal care team all moved to Hampden upon its opening. That shift of services opened around 20 rooms in Holy Spirit for other uses.  

A key difference between the two hospitals, and one that the system has been very intentional about, is space. 

Hampden Medical Center was built to expand its footprint and sustain 250 beds while Holy Spirit’s footprint is tight in comparison, according to McKenna. 

“We have a growth plan and it’s the patients and the physicians that will determine that,” he said. “If they choose care here and we continue to grow, we will grow the facilities.” 

While Holy Spirit has less room to grow, the hospital’s nearly 60 years of service in East Pennsboro Township has refined several its services, which Penn State Health intends to continue to support. 

Holy Spirit boasts a level 2 adult trauma center, and more and more patients are coming to the center’s trauma center, said McKenna.  

Other specialties of the center include heart surgery thanks to the Ortenzio Heart Center located on Holy Spirit’s Campus, and neurosurgery. Penn State Health has provided neurosurgeons to the center even when it was owned by Geisinger. 

Penn State Health employs over 1600 people between the two hospitals alone. Almost every physician on staff is currently working at both hospitals. 

The two-hospital strategy also proves positive for leadership, seeing as though the system can have one leader oversee both facilities, be that in finance, HR or any of the medical specialties. 

“Having these hospitals nearby is a net win,” said McKenna. “We can share HR, technology and clinical specialties and we have two emergency rooms we can access. As a patient, I can be cared for faster, by the same system and have access to the same specialists.” 

Penn State Health did not plan Hampden Medical Center with the intention that it would have another hospital in its portfolio down the street. For McKenna, that timing couldn’t have been more perfect. 

“Sometimes you create an opportunity and sometimes that opportunity presents itself,” he said.  

A key tenant of Penn State Health’s expansion in recent years has been the system’s “10, 20, 30” initiative.  

The system aims to have patients be zero minutes from telehealth services, 10 minutes from a primary care provider, 20 minutes from a specialty care provider and 30 minutes from a Penn State Health hospital. 

McKenna said that this strategy allows the system to have “systemness” to take advantage of not just the two nearby hospitals in Cumberland County but the entire Penn State Health system. 

“We can take care of [an infant or a premature infant] in Hampden at our NICU, or if there is a 28 week-old baby that is so tiny they have to be in a super specialized site like in Hershey, it’s all here and we can think about that continuum,” said McKenna. “Most hospitals don’t have all of that in a local area. They are spread out and don’t have that advantage we have it’s because Penn State Health built it that way.”