Clarion County's healthcare system will be getting a new addition "within the next two years" according to Steve Fontaine, CEO of Penn Highlands Healthcare.
Speaking Nov. 2 in Brookville, Fontaine said the site purchased by Penn Highlands in 2017 be home to a new 17,000 square-feet outpatient hospital that will have emergency room beds and will provide all outpatient services.
Penn Highlands purchased two parcels including a 5.21-acre parcel of land from Keith A. Chernicky at a listed sale price of $1 and another 0.961-acre parcel of land from Klingensmith Properties at a price of $775,000.
The site is opposite the Clarion Mall, near Pizza Hut.
The Chernicky property had been the home office of the C&K Coal Company. That building was demolished.
The Penn Highlands system includes the former Brookville Hospital; Clearfield Hospital; DuBois Regional Medical Center; and Elk Regional Health Center.
Penn Highlands also has a number of Urgent Care facilities in the region, including Punxsutawney, DuBois, St. Marys, Ridgway, Moshannon Valley, Cameron County, a clinic at the DuBois WalMart, and a rural health clinic in New Bethlehem.
The Penn Highlands system serves an eight county service area with 410,000 residents.
"We just recently acquired our fifth hospital, J.C. Blair Hospital in Huntingdon. We have 100 clinic locations. We now employ over 4,400 employees and our medical staff has over 700 providers including a medical staff of over 700 providers," said Fontaine.
"In this day and age you have to be of that size to survive, to compete with outside entities," he said.
Penn Highlands growth is not limited to Clarion.
Fontaine said PH recently committed to a bond issue for $130 million for eight construction projects.
Fontaine said a 34-bed; state of the art trauma designated emergency room will be built in DuBois to serve a 10-county region. He said once it is completed patients will no longer have to be transported to Altoona of Pittsburgh.
Penn Highlands will also add another 60 beds at the DuBois campus for mental health patients.
In addition to outpatient programs, a 20-bed unit for people struggling with substance abuse will also be added at DuBois.
The expansion also requires the recruitment of health care providers.
"If you cannot recruit doctors and then retain them you are not going to survive as a hospital or healthcare system," said Fontaine. "Last year we recruited 59 providers, most of them doctors."
At Brookville Penn Highlands, 17 providers were recruited at Brookville Hospital.
"For a small community that is a lot of providers," he said.
"We are totally committed to provide local services and retain our patients," said Fontaine.