Friday, August 5, 2011

Lancaster General targets Chesco for $15M health center

by John George

"Another health system from outside the region is looking to set up shop in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Lancaster General Health wants to build a $15 million outpatient-care center in Chester County.

The proposed two-story, 36,000-square-foot center in Sadsbury would contain an urgent-care center, provide offices for specialists and primary-care physicians and offer laboratory services, lab testing, imaging service, pulmonary testing and outpatient physical rehabilitation.

The building would be built on what is now vacant land near routes 30 and 10 near the border of Chester and Lancaster counties.

The plan received conditional approval from the Sadsbury Township supervisors Tuesday night.

“There isn’t a comparable facility like this in the immediate area,” said John Lines, a spokesman for Lancaster General. “The area close to where Lancaster and Chester meet is one of the fastest growing in the region. The population is expected to grow by 7 percent over the next five years.”

Lancaster General already has a presence in Chester County with a primary-care health clinic — called Lancaster General Health Express — it opened in a Walmart in nearby Parksburg.

The clinic is one of four Health Express sites operated by Lancaster General. Two of the others are in Giant Food Stores and the other is in a Walmart; all are in Lancaster County.

Lancaster General Health is the parent organization for Lancaster General Hospital, Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital, and Womens and Babies Hospital. It also operates 11 outpatient centers and an urgent care center, provides home health-care services and about 30 primary-care and specialty physician offices.

“We regularly hear from residents who say they’d like quality health-care services closer to their homes and more convenient access to their physicians,” Lines said. “From our perspective, most of our areas of growth are on the outskirts of Lancaster County.”

Lines said nearly 8 percent of the inpatients treated at Lancaster General Hospital come from towns located within 15 miles of routes 30 and 10.

Mary Ann G. Holt, a partner with IMA Consulting in Chadds Ford, believes health systems expanding in peripheral territories are doing so not to engage in any kind of border war with neighboring health-care providers. Instead, she said, they are looking for ways to make stronger connections with patients and build loyalty so if those patient do require inpatient acute-care services they will stay within the same system.

“Health systems are trying to seize opportunities to improve market share,” Holt said. “If you look at a lot of the (outpatient) centers that are going up, they are really being developed to provide primary care and follow-up care. They are a way to build up a referral base.”

Getting closer to patients was also the reason Wilmington-based Christiana Care, Delaware’s largest health-care provider, paid $5 million in June to buy a two-story, 72,000-square-foot office building in Chadds Ford that it is converting into an ambulatory-care center.

The health system had decided to explore expansion options outside of its home base in Wilmington.

Gary Ferguson, Christian Care’s chief operating officer, said the health system originally planned to build the center in the north Wilmington area, but couldn’t find a suitable site.

“When nothing came about on the Delaware side, we looked at this opportunity” in Delaware County, he said, in an interview in June. “This is a new market for us.”

Ferguson said the location is ideal because it is convenient and accessible for people who live, work or shop in Delaware and are accustomed to coming to Christiana Care for health-care services. The site, near the border of Pennsylvania and Delaware, is about 15 minutes from downtown Wilmington."

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