Op-Ed: We should support Penn State’s purchase of Holy Spirit Hospital

As elected officials proud to represent Cumberland County, hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear how someone’s life has been positively impacted by the wonderful work done at Holy Spirit Hospital. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has lived in our area. It’s been that way since the Sisters of Christian Charity first opened the doors of Holy Spirit nearly six decades ago. 

That’s why we need to do everything we can to convince Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to approve Penn State Health’s recent acquisition of Holy Spirit. As hospitals continue to struggle for survival in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to make sure everything is done to protect Holy Spirit, which has helped millions of families throughout the year. 

Holy Spirit opened on March 4, 1963, and the hospital cared for its first eight patients that day. 

Since then, we all know stories of countless routine, out-patient surgeries; children born healthy and happy in the labor and delivery unit; so many in our communities living longer, healthier lives because of the state-of-the-art facilities like the Ortenzio Heart Center; and the lives saved when seconds counted at Holy Spirit’s Level II trauma center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all watched as Holy Spirit prepared to help those in need fight the virus. The emergency clinic along Routes 11/15 is still active and ready to care for patients. 

When Geisinger acquired Holy Spirit Health System in 2013, they immediately made a $120 million investment to seek Level II trauma center accreditation and to establish a premier neonatal intensive care unit. Since that time, Holy Spirit has been recognized for its work on patient safety, heart and stroke care, spine surgery, breast cancer care, and knee and hip replacements. 

Penn State Health now has an opportunity to build on Geisinger’s work and stabilize the hospital’s fiscal outlook so it can continue serving our communities for the next sixty years. Geisinger has steadily raised Holy Spirit’s operating margin to nearly 4% in recent years. The pandemic will make reaching this number more difficult in the near future, but it’s still well below other hospitals in the area, including Penn State Health’s Hershey Medical Center, which enjoyed a 12.8% margin most recently. 

These numbers are a warning sign that we must do all we can to protect Holy Spirit Hospital and its 1,600 family-sustaining jobs in the aftermath of this pandemic. For more reasons than money, we cannot allow this hospital to close when so many in the Cumberland County community rely on its excellent record of medical care to keep their families healthy and safe. 

As the review process by Attorney General Shapiro and the FTC continues over the next several months, we encourage our fellow citizens to do all they can to voice their support for protecting Holy Spirit Hospital through its acquisition by Penn State Health. Penn State already has a number of care services here, and has promised to keep the hospital open, preserve its Catholic traditions, and most importantly, protect hospital jobs. 

In such uncertain times, Attorney General Shapiro and the FTC can ensure Cumberland County continues to enjoy the quality health care we’ve come to expect from Holy Spirit for more than a half century. 

Senator Mike Regan and Rep. Greg Rothman 

Contact: Bruce McLanahan, Chief of Staff to Senator Regan, bmclanahan@pasen.gov