TOWANDA — Guthrie announced recently that changes are coming to Towanda Memorial Hospital, which will phase out some services over the next six months.

According to Guthrie’s press release, most current services will remain at the Towanda location, including the Emergency Department, Imaging Services, Lab Services, Outpatient Rehabilitation and Ambulance Services. The Personal Care Home and Skilled Nursing Facility will also continue to operate exactly as they are presently.

The biggest change will be the loss of operating room services in the Towanda hospital. Patients will need to head to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre or to the Troy Community Hospital for those services.

“Guthrie’s goal is to balance the needs of the Towanda community with the need for more flexibility regarding how we provide patient care,” Paul VerValin, Guthrie Chief Operating Officer, said in a press release.

Some changes have already begun, while others will take place over the next six months, with the transition planned for completion by January 2021, pending all regulatory approvals.

Guthrie President and CEO Dr. Joe Scopelliti told the Morning Times that Towanda Memorial will keep 10 inpatient beds connected to the Emergency Department.

“The emergency department is a necessary service for the community there. It is a service for the southern part of the county. It does require some inpatient beds to be associated with it,” Scopelliti said Thursday.

With a limited amount of inpatient beds, it’s plausible that some patients at the Towanda Emergency Department would have to be transferred to Sayre or Troy if their condition required a hospital stay.

One example the Morning Times asked Scopelliti about was if a resident of the Towanda skilled nursing facility had to go to the Emergency Department with pneumonia and their condition required a hospital stay. Would they be able to stay in Towanda or would they have to be transferred?

“They should be able to stay right there. Using that hypothetical, if you’re in the nursing home and you have suspected pneumonia, the (Emergency Room) is a full service ER. It will have x-rays, CT scans, labs, all of that is still available, so you can be fully evaluated there,” he said.

“If you are a condition of low severity, you could be discharged home. If you have a condition that needs a hospital stay, there will be hospital beds there. If you’re critically ill or at risk to become critically ill, that’s going to require a transfer to Robert Packer Hospital.”

Scopelliti said the Guthrie leadership worked closely with Memorial Hospital as they made these decisions.

“We did a lot of prep work with the board there and the administrative team so they understand exactly the decisions that we’re making,” he said.

While some are concerned Memorial Hospital could eventually be closed altogether, Scopelliti was quick to shoot that down.

“I don’t see that happening,” he said.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com. Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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