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Geisinger's proposed hospital expansion addressed

Haley O'Brien
Geisinger representatives gave a presentation before a public hearing on Tuesday.

Geisinger's proposed expansion of Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in Scranton was addressed at a public hearing. The health care system wants to build an addition at GCMC to expand emergency services. A new parking garage is also part of the project.

Geisinger hosted a public presentation before the public hearing at City Hall on Tuesday, April 18. Geisinger emphasized the crisis in Scranton’s emergency healthcare that existed even before Moses Taylor closed its emergency department. Regional Hospital of Scranton and Moses Taylor, the two other hospitals in Scranton, consolidated emergency rooms April 1.

According to data from the Department of Health, Moses Taylor reported 32,695 ER visits and 4,143 inpatient admissions from the ER in 2021. GCMC anticipates a 30% increase in demand of daily admissions if one half of Moses Taylor’s annual emergency services patients are absorbed.

Dr. Steve Brunetti is an emergency medicine physician and an owner of the staffing group that has been recruiting and hiring employees at Geisinger Medical Center since 1998. He says patients wait hours for a bed in the emergency department, sometimes on a stretcher in an ambulance.

"We have makeshift areas we've made up. We've put up areas in closets. We've done exams in bathrooms," he said. "We've been struggling for years with a small geographic footprint... We see 53,000 people a year in our emergency department."

The plan includes demolishing the parking garages and a medical office building on the 300 block of Colfax Avenue.

Geisinger is in the very early stages of the planning process which they anticipate will take about 12 to 18 months. They met with community members multiple times since April 2022 to hear their concerns, and set up a phone line and e-mail address for the public to ask questions about the project.

After speaking with neighbors, the height of the proposed building on the 400 block of Colfax Avenue will be similar to Audubon Elementary School, which previously sat on the property. The expansion also includes a parking garage on the 200 block of Colfax Avenue, which would be similar to the height of the existing hospital and parking garages. Geisinger representatives say the goal is to free up the parking spots at Nay Aug Park that hospital employees currently use.

If and when the ordinance is passed, many studies will be done to determine the specifics of the project. For that reason, many questions asked by Scranton City Council members and the public couldn't be answered.

"If you're going to build a parking garage in the 400 block, is that the best place to build a parking garage?" said Doug Heller who lives two blocks from GCMC. "Can you look into digging down versus build up? Probably gonna be an issue, because you've got mines under these areas... so then I think you have to build it to a certain level, and you truly have to honor all your promises with respect to, you know, not casting shade on someone permanently, having curb appeal, et cetera."

Residents who spoke during public comment also brought up concerns about traffic, speeding, lights, property value, and the disturbances of construction.

State Representative Bridget Kosierowski urged City Council to put healthcare first.

"It is going to change the neighborhood, and I understand that," she said. "But the risk of losing accessibility to good, quality, healthcare I believe is much larger."

Scranton City Council will vote on a zoning ordinance for the property on Colfax Avenue next week.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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