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The former St. Joseph Hospital, shown in this 2000 file photo.

Word of UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster’s pending shutdown brought somber reactions from local residents and officials.

“The closing of an institution that has been part of the city’s fabric for 130 years is sad,” said Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace.

“Many residents have celebrated births, received life-sustaining care, attended Mass and mourned at this facility. We look forward to partnering with UPMC Pinnacle as we determine the future of this property.”

Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, said, “This move, while not fully unexpected, is indicative of the continuously changing world of healthcare in the Lancaster County marketplace and beyond.

“While the location obviously holds many memories for people throughout Lancaster County, it’s more important that our county is able to benefit from strong health care systems that can work together and provide access to all,” Baldrige said.

“I am pleased to see such a commitment in the UPMC statement announcing the change,” he added. “For the immediate term, however, we intend to work with UPMC to make certain that any displaced workers have the opportunity to find employment elsewhere in the county.”

In addition to his role with the Chamber, Baldrige serves on the board of Lancaster General Health, which owns and operates Lancaster General Hospital, the county’s largest general hospital.

Diane Hess, executive director of the Lancaster-based Central Penn Business Group on Health, said she had “a very mixed reaction” to the news of the hospital’s closing.

One one hand, Hess said, she has had a long relationship with the hospital and is “sad they are going away.”

But, she added, “I understand their planning process with having the new facility in Lititz, and it makes more sense to grow and expand there.

“Health systems, in general,” she said, “are cognizant and aware of the need to develop the right care at the right place at the right time.

“If they are not doing that effectively, opening other facilities to address unmet needs makes sense going forward,” Hess said.

Lancaster General Health spokesman John Lines said, “Our main focus will, and has been, on ensuring our community has uninterrupted access to quality health services.”

As for UPMC Pinnacle employees who may lose their jobs, Lines said, “Opportunities do exist for employees at Lancaster General Health, and we will certainly entertain applicants from their facility.”

Staff and neighbors react

Registered nurse Linda Franzese, who works in UPMC Pinnacle’s behavioral health unit, said notifications went out to employees at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

It was a shock for staff members, she said. There had been rumors outside the hospital for months that it was closing, but the administration had said nothing, she said.

The behavioral health staff was told to stop accepting patients as of Wednesday, she said.

Hospital employees were informed that some will be offered placement at other UPMC Pinnacle facilities and that administrators would keep an eye out for positions with other systems. But that will still leave a lot of people looking for work, Franzese suspects.

“It’s going to be hard,” she said.

City resident Maria Cora was at the hospital on Tuesday visiting her sister, who recently had surgery.

Another sister works there, she said.

The announcement is a sad thing, she said: “A lot of places are closing.”

Karen Conley, a nurse at another health care facility, was born at the hospital when it was St. Joseph’s and was part of its nursing school’s final graduating class in the mid-1990s.

She remembers the hospital fondly, and has been saddened to see it scale back and struggle in recent years.

The closure will mean less choice, she said, especially for city residents with limited transportation.

“Competition can be healthy,” she said.

LNP staff writer Tim Stuhldreher contributed to this report.

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