Western Suburbs will see a Healthcare Expansion in 2018

Main Liners no longer have to trek to the city to find expert medical care.



A rendering of Lankenau Medical Center's new Emergency Department.

Remember when we had to drive to Center City to get expert medical care? Now, people cross city and state lines to seek care from physicians in our region. Local healthcare executives bet that, if they built it, patients would come—and they do. In 2018, they’ll double down on their investments by building new medical facilities from West Chester to Wynnewood.

Penn Medicine, more than any other Philadelphia-based health system, has expanded heavily into the suburbs. Why? It’s where the patients are—and they have good health insurance. In addition to stocking its Radnor and Valley Forge campuses with A-list doctors, Penn Medicine acquired Chester County Hospital and its health system in 2013. What seemed an odd medical marriage is now looking like a strategic coup.

CCH has expanded its services in cancer and cardiology, two specialties in which Penn Medicine dominates Center City. Orthopedics also got a nice boost. Since fiscal year 2013, CCH reports that orthopedic surgeries have risen 34 percent, and cardiac catheterizations have seen a 17-percent bump since fiscal year 2014. Perhaps most impressive, open-heart surgeries have increased by 37 percent since fiscal year 2015.

Now, the hospital itself is getting an extreme makeover. Construction is underway on a 250,000-square-foot expansion and a 26,000-square-foot renovation. Besides a revamped front entrance, the hospital will have 15 new high-tech operating rooms, eight additional ER rooms, and three more catheterization labs. If zoning and other approvals come through, CCH could get 99 new inpatient beds. These upgrades are enough to transform a community hospital into a regional healthcare superpower.

And while Penn Medicine marches west, Reading Health System is heading east. Reading Hospital is a big player in its region, with more than 700 beds and 1,000 physicians in 46 locations. This year, the health system purchased Brandywine and Phoenixville hospitals, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Jennersville Regional Hospital, and Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Details have yet to be made public, but the health system did announce a name change to Tower Health system. It also has a strategic partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. With eight acute-care hospitals, a medical school and 600 doctors’ offices in 10 counties, UPMC Pinnacle is one of the most extensive healthcare systems in Pennsylvania.

Crozer-Keystone Health System is also expanding. Next year, it will invest more than $17 million in its hospitals and primary-care network. Taylor Hospital will get a new emergency department with more beds and a rapid assessment unit. Crozer-Chester Medical Center’s intensive care unit will be renovated, as will its critical-care step-down unit. Delaware County Memorial Hospital will get a 25-bed substance-abuse treatment center—an extension of First Steps, a 52-bed facility that opened at Crozer-Chester in March.

While other healthcare networks have addiction services, they aren’t expanding treatment centers as proactively as CKHS. “That’s precisely why this is a priority for [us],” says Crozer-Keystone Health System CEO Patrick Gavin. “There’s a growing need for behavioral health and substance-abuse services in Delaware County and the Philadelphia suburbs. These problems know no boundaries and often require highly specialized treatment that can’t be found at every healthcare facility. It is our mission to get the right care to the right people, when and where they need it most.”

Nemours duPont Pediatrics is expanding its Wayne location and, farther west, the Rothman Institute is putting the finishing touches on its Malvern offices at Uptown Worthington. Slated to open this month, the 20,000-square-foot facility will have an impressive 26 exam rooms.

Main Line Health’s big projects include the $52.8 million renovation of Lankenau Medical Center’s emergency department. “Renovation” may be too modest a term to describe the changes planned there. When it opens in 2019, it will have tripled in size. “Lankenau’s ED was built to handle 35,000 patients per year,” says Phil Robinson, Lankenau’s president.

At last count, Lankenau’s ED was seeing 54,000 patients annually. “We attract patients from our immediate vicinity, including the Main Line and Philadelphia region,” Robinson says. “However, as we continue to enhance our medical and surgical services, we’re increasingly seeing patients from the five-county region.”

All of this should ratchet up competition among the area’s healthcare systems—much to the benefit of patients, one would hope.

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