Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is facing a critical situation in its healthcare system. The recent decision by WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital to stop admitting pediatric patients highlights a growing concern about the healthcare infrastructure’s ability to keep up with the county’s population growth. The hospital’s policy change, which directs pediatric patients to other hospitals for inpatient care, raises questions about the adequacy of healthcare services in the region.
Franklin County’s population stood at 155,592 in 2021, experiencing a growth of 0.412% from the previous year. With a median age of 41.8 years and an increasing poverty rate of 9.25%, the healthcare needs of the county are evolving and expanding. The largest industries in the county include healthcare and social assistance, employing over 11,000 people. This economic backdrop sets the stage for an analysis of the current healthcare facilities’ capacity and the community’s perceptions and experiences with the healthcare system.
A poll conducted by the Franklin County Free Press reflects the community’s sentiment regarding healthcare services. While 42.71% reported being satisfied with hospital care, a significant 45.66% believe an additional hospital is needed, and 43.59% think it would be beneficial. These figures suggest a recognition among residents of the growing healthcare demands. The experiences with emergency care also indicate room for improvement, with 28.57% facing slow or unbearable service. Additionally, over 10% of the population struggles to find a primary care or family physician, highlighting a potential provider shortage.
Data from 2020 regarding Franklin County’s healthcare facilities show the number of hospital beds, admissions, and nursing home beds per 1,000 population, as well as hospital and nursing home occupancy rates. However, these figures alone may not fully represent the current capacity or the adequacy of the healthcare system in meeting the increasing demand.
The combination of population growth, an aging demographic, and economic factors in Franklin County necessitates a reevaluation of healthcare capacity. While the healthcare sector is a significant employer in the region, the recent policy changes at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital and the community’s perception of healthcare services indicate a need for expansion and improvement. This might involve increasing the number of healthcare facilities, enhancing emergency care services, and addressing the shortage of primary care providers. Addressing these challenges is crucial for ensuring that the healthcare needs of Franklin County’s growing and diversifying population are adequately met.