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NEW CASTLE Officials: Merger to boost system



Published: Tue, August 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The merger is being financed by $21 million from a health insurer.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Having St. Francis and Jameson hospitals only a few miles apart made them akin to two used cars, said Joe Lambo, former board president of St. Francis Hospital.

"They cost a lot of money and don't always work as they should," he said.

But with Monday's announcement that St. Francis and Jameson hospitals will merge into Jameson Health System, Lambo said he hopes they become one "high-performance car."

The ailing St. Francis Health System also announced Monday the sale of its two other facilities. The hospital in Pittsburgh will close and become the new Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. UPMC will take over the St. Francis Cranberry site.

Reasons behind merger

"The lack of population growth [in Lawrence County] and the changing demographics have resulted in significant excess medical capacity," said Thomas White, chief executive officer of Jameson Health System in New Castle.

Merging the two will eliminate duplication of services and provide new services that will keep people from leaving Lawrence County for their care, he said.

The merger will become final sometime in October and integration will occur over the next year, White said.

Jameson Health System will remain an independent health-care provider, using both buildings. Jameson Hospital is a 204-bed facility and St. Francis Hospital has 187 beds.

White said that once the reorganization is complete, there will be about 1,200 to 1,400 people employed. He said it's too soon to talk about layoffs.

Meeting with employees

Jameson officials were expected to start meeting Monday afternoon with employees to explain the merger. They hope to have a new plan of services in place by October.

Sister Patricia Fogle, chief executive officer of St. Francis Hospital, New Castle, will remain there until the merger is final.

White said St. Francis Health System will recommend six people to Jameson and three will be chosen to sit on the new board.

The sale is being partly financed by an $18 million loan and a $3 million grant from health insurance provider Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

David O'Brian of Highmark said the money will be used to pay off some of St. Francis Hospital's debt and pay merger expenses.

Officials said patients at both hospitals should see no change in service immediately, but over the next year there will be changes.

White said Jameson will continue to offer care to the indigent, which has been a mission of the Sisters of Saint Francis, who operated the St. Francis Health System since its inception in the early 1900s.

cioffi@vindy.com




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