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Officials ceremonially break ground on massive expansion of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center

This is an artist's rendering of what Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center's expansion will look like once it's done in 2028
Geisinger Health System
This is an artist's rendering of what Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center's expansion will look like once it's done in 2028.

For their groundbreaking on the large-scale expansion of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, health system officials chose the top of a five-story concrete parking garage.

At a gathering of health system and other officials before the groundbreaking, Geisinger interim chief operating officer Ron Beer alluded to its ceremonial nature.

“I think those of you who are looking over the wall know that we've been working for a little while, but we get to ceremonially break ground with you, and share with you the single largest investment in Geisinger’s 109-year history is being made right here in Plains Township in northeast Pennsylvania,” Beer said. “That's what makes today so special.”

Down below, but hundreds of feet away, workers operated a towering drill, water and cement trucks and a backhoe behind Geisinger’s emergency room building.

They toiled on an early stage of an almost $900 million expansion that will nearly double the campus’ size by the end of 2028.

In an 11-story tower that will be almost 600,000 square feet, Geisinger will transition to all private rooms and add 58 new medical/surgical beds, 22 new emergency treatment rooms, 24 intensive care unit beds, rooms for mental health patients and more space for trauma care.

All that plus six new operating rooms, new cardiac care labs and rooms for heart valve procedures and more clinic and cardiac imagery space.

Renovating the existing medical center will take another two years.

Beer said the hospital needs more private beds because patients prefer privacy and the region’s older population is expected to grow by 11 percent by the end of 2028 compared to last year.

Geisinger emergency medicine chairman Dr. Ronald Strony said the need for more emergency room beds grew long ago.

“When this current emergency department was built and opened in 2008, we were projected to hit maximum capacity in seven years. We did that in three,” Strony said. “And look where we're at today."

With too few emergency beds, patients wait in waiting rooms, hallways or other available space, he said.

“On the busiest days, maybe even today -- and our EMS folks in the back can probably attest to this -- it's not uncommon to see ambulances lined up waiting to bring their patients into the emergency department because our beds are just completely full, and there is no place,” Strony said.

As if to symbolize the tight space, for the groundbreaking, officials dug gold shovels into a trough full of dirt only about a foot wide and 15 feet long.

Beer said Geisinger set aside money gradually over 10 years to pay for the expansion and isn’t borrowing any money for it. The system has invested $1.4 billion in new facilities in the region since 2008.

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org