Last updated: January 10. 2014 8:13AM - 2385 Views

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HAZLETON — Promising to enhance quality health care in the Hazleton area with no intent to downsize, President/CEO of the Lehigh Valley Health Network Dr. Ronald Swinfard announced completion of the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance.

After the press conference in the hospital’s lobby Thursday, the crowd of administrators, employees and others went outside to witness the unveiling of new signage and the landing of the Lehigh Valley Health Network MedEvac helicopter, which will move its base from Weatherly to Hazleton.

Executives from the Lehigh Valley Health Network officially welcomed its new colleagues from the former Greater Hazleton Health Alliance into the Allentown-based health network. The celebration that followed included a bittersweet announcement that Jim Edwards, current president/CEO at the Hazleton Hospital, is leaving the organization, citing personal reasons.

Edwards, 51, has been at the facility for 23 years, the last 10 as president/CEO. He said he will move on to a new career challenge at the end of January and assured everyone that he was not ill.

Thomas Kennedy, chairman of the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton Board of Trustees, said the merger is a prime example of how organizations can work together to provide quality health care.

“We will remain a non-profit entity,” Kennedy said. “We will not be beholding to stockholders; we will always be beholding to our patients, providing quality health care right here in our hometown.”

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said at the event he was “truly excited for the future” of Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton. He said the anticipated $150 million investment the merger brings into the regional economy will “certainly pay dividend” in health care innovation and job opportunities

Moving the MedEvac helicopter base to Hazleton will allow the crew to work more directly with local first responders. MedEvac helicopters also are based in Berks, Monroe and Schuylkill counties.

Other changes as a direct result of the merger are:

• Medical Imaging of Lehigh Valley will assume responsibility for radiology professional services at that hospital campus and at the Health and Wellness Center at Hazleton. The move brings to the region the expertise of more than 40 board-certified radiologists, doctor availability 24/7 and a TeleRadiology service.

• Hazleton General is now part of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, which includes hospitals in Allentown and Bethlehem; 10 health centers caring for communities in five counties; primary and specialty care physician practices; pharmacy, imaging, home health and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred.

• Specialty care includes trauma care at the trauma center, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center.

• Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics.

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