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Do the Poconos need three hospitals?

Escalating competition between Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s to be the dominant health system north of Philadelphia is driving the construction of hospitals and doctor’s offices in the Poconos.

In late 2016, St. Luke’s opened a 102-bed hospital in Bartonsville. Three months later, Pocono Health System merged with LVHN to become LVHN-Pocono. And by the end of 2017, St. Luke’s added a cancer center with a sleep disorder wing, and LVHN opened a 12-bed inpatient rehabilitation center at its Pocono hospital, and a health center in Blakeslee with an urgent care service. It also announced plans for a hospital campus in Tannersville in 2020 that will provide emergency care, a surgical unit with private rooms, a sleep disorder center and medical offices.

The competition has become so heated that the two networks are building nearly on top of each other — St. Luke’s Monroe Campus stands next to an LVHN-Pocono office building and across the street from an LVHN-Pocono urgent care center. And LVHN is building its new campus about four miles northwest of St. Luke’s.

“People west of of LVHN’s campus, if they needed a hospital before, the closest one is St. Luke’s, and now it will be Lehigh Valley,” said Stuart Fine, Health Policy and Management Program director for Temple University’s College of Public Health. “Where does this end? Does this now mean, St. Luke’s will go five or 10 miles further and put up another facility?"

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