Over the last decade, the healthcare industry has seen upheaval. This could have been the fate of Chestnut Hill Hospital.
Over the last decade, the healthcare industry has seen rapid change. The pace of upheaval quickened during the global COVID-19 pandemic, as hospitals and healthcare workers were pushed to their limits. Added to that has been a steady decline in the number of community hospitals, with many ending up victims of corporate downsizing and unsustainable profit models, among other factors.
This could have been the fate of Chestnut Hill Hospital, a critical local healthcare resource that has served this community for over 100 years. Through a strategic alliance with Temple Health and Redeemer Health, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) acquired what is now Temple Health – Chestnut Hill Hospital in January, preserving this vital asset and ensuring its continued presence in the community for years to come.
This acquisition has broader regional significance, of course, but as a resident of Lafayette Hill, it also has personal significance. I have seen firsthand the value Chestnut Hill Hospital brings to this community. I have lived in the area for the past 44 years and spent time at the hospital as a PCOM student in the early 1970s. Throughout that time, it has been comforting to know there is a high-quality community hospital right in my backyard. It is doubly gratifying to know that PCOM students will continue to have a place to develop their skills through our established residencies in internal medicine, surgery and the transitional year. Its preservation also offers PCOM the opportunity to expand clinical education opportunities for our doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) and physician assistant studies (PA) students.
The changes happening at Chestnut Hill are a benefit to the area and are already making an impact. Visits to the ER are up 17% year-over-year, with wait times averaging 30 minutes or less, down more than half from an average of 41 minutes in January to just 19 minutes in March. Surgeries are also up by 23%, a signal that patients are choosing Chestnut Hill over other area medical facilities and a bright sign for the future.
As a physician, I understand the significance of having a community hospital in your neighborhood and I’m optimistic that these positive developments will continue. I am also hopeful the nationwide trends abate. There are efforts currently underway in the state legislature to prevent abrupt hospital closures, but access to care remains a critical problem. As we increasingly see these vital community resources – both locally and across the country – reduce services or shut down completely, we need to ensure the hospitals that remain are fulfilling their charge of providing the care and services we expect and that our communities deserve.
The alliance we formed with Temple Health and Redeemer Health is a model for how to do that. Each partner brings unique strengths and each has a vested interest in preserving this vital community resource. PCOM brings academic support with established residency programs and student elective rotations in the Intensive Care Unit. Temple Health brings clinical expertise in dozens of high-acuity services and experience in clinical integration and operational efficiencies and has a proven track record of delivering high-quality care. Redeemer Health adds referral networks and expertise in women’s care, as well as post-acute care such as long-term care, home care and hospice, all of which are valuable to the area.
The future of Temple Health-Chestnut Hill Hospital is bright. Through this Alliance and the collective support of our partners, we can continue training the next generation of healthcare practitioners and help sustain an important community health resource that has served the northwest Philadelphia and east Montgomery County area for more than a century.
Kenneth J. Veit, DO, MBA, FACOFP, is provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM).