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Staff Writer 

Bucking the Trend

As Rural Healthcare Declines, Conemaugh Nason Shows Growth


November 27, 2019

Rick Boston

Employees and officials gathered in the lobby of Conemaugh Nason Medical Center in Roaring Spring on Wednesday, Nov. 20, to celebrate receiving an award for Rural Health Program of the Year presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health. Nationwide trends have seen a decline in rural healthcare but Nason has experienced growth, including the opening of a Cardiac Catheterization Lab last January.

Rural healthcare across the United States is facing a crisis. According to data compiled by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, 119 rural hospitals have closed since 2010 and another 430 are at risk of closing.

The loss of a rural hospital not only has a negative economic effect on a community, it also could cost lives by having to travel further for emergency medical services, when often every second counts.

While the nationwide trend sees small communities losing their hospitals, Conemaugh Nason Medical Center in Roaring Spring is not only thriving, but also expanding its services to better serve the Cove and surrounding areas.

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, Conemaugh Nason hosted an open house to showcase its new Cath Lab, and to accept an award as Rural Health program of the Year presented by the Pa. Department of Rural Health.

A release issued by Conemaugh Health systems stated, “The Rural Health Program of the Year award recognizes an exemplary health program that address an identified need in a rural community.”

In order to be eligible for the award, a hospital must meet criteria including demonstrating “creative and innovative approaches to healthcare,” be accessible to the community “with no physical, economic or social barriers” and “demonstrate a significant benefit to the target population.”

According to Conemaugh Nason Director of Development Heidi Kreider, the Roaring Spring facility has not only checked all those boxes but is committed to keeping the hospital’s small-community feel while expanding its footprint.

“It’s a growing hospital that wants to keep the small-town appeal,” Kreider said. “That’s what we really want to do. We are up to the challenge.”

With its roots firmly planted in the Cove, Nason has seen consistent growth over the years while honoring its founding.

Nason was named for Dr. William Albert Nason who, in 1886 established a private sanitorium, which became the hospital. The hospital moved to its current location in 1961.

In February 2015, LifePoint Health of Brentwood Tenn., acquired Nason, making it part of the Conemaugh Health System.

“LifePoint has 89 hospitals in 30 states, Kreider said. “They have invested in us. They are committed to rural healthcare.”

Part of that commitment was building the new Cardiovascular Catheterization (cath) Lab.

The 2,400-square-foot lab opened in January to provide cardiac catharization and advances heart care close to home.

Cath lab Manager Jenn Shade said the response to the cath lab highlights the need for such a service in a rural hospital setting.

“The response has been very favorable,” Shade said. “Our outcomes have been wonderful and out procedures are going well.”

Shade said that since the cath lab opened in January, it has performed 555 cardiac catheterizations and 200 angioplasty procedures.

“It gives us a higher level of care for our patients,” Shade said.

Shade said the new cath lab not only expands Nason’s level of care, it is an addition that greatly increases the chance of survival for someone in the community who may have a cardiac event.

“Time is muscle,” Shade said. “The cath lab is not only convenient for scheduled outpatient cath patients, we offer the procedure for patients having an emergence episode, having an active heart attack. Every minute closer that you can have the procedure done increases your chance not only of survival but of a better life.”

Kreider said Nason is expected to remain strong in rural healthcare and thinks the cath lab is only the beginning of bringing more services to patients closer to home.

“LifePoint has invested in us,” Kreider said. “I believe this is the beginning.”


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