JC Blair, Pinnacle approve affiliation

J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital in Huntingdon and PinnacleHealth System of Harrisburg have signed a memorandum of understanding for affiliation – not the deal for acquisition by Pinnacle that looked to be likely a few months ago.

The affiliation arrangement will focus initially on clinical support, group purchasing and doctor recruitment, according to a joint news release Thursday.

The clinical support includes a previously announced telemedicine partnership to bring specialty services like neurology, infectious disease, wound care and stroke care when needed to Huntingdon County, avoiding the need to transfer patients and a hospitalist program, which relies on specialized doctors, rather than primary care physicians, to provide inpatient care.

Both sides considered a variety of options, including a merger, but agreed that the affiliation “best meets our goal of expanding needed health care services in Huntingdon County while still retaining local accountability,” said J.C. Blair spokeswoman Chris Gildea in an email.

“The primary goal of this affiliation is to bring advanced services to Huntingdon County and support J.C. Blair as the Huntingdon region’s leader for health care,” wrote Pinnacle spokeswoman Kelly McCall in an email.

Previously, J.C. Blair CEO Lisa Mallon said a merger would be a good cultural fit, as Pinnacle shares the belief that providing service close to home for patients is important.

Local services are especially important for the Huntingdon area, which has an abundance of older people, who tend to find traveling for care stressful, Mallon previously said.

Pinnacle has also demonstrated a commitment to high-level care while keeping costs down, she has said.

The talks between the hospitals grew out of a proposal Pinnacle made more than a year ago to provide telemedicine to J.C. Blair.

“We believe under this affiliation agreement that PinnacleHealth will be able to support J.C. Blair in creating a strong foundation of clinical excellence and financial stability,” said Pinnacle CEO Mike

Young in the joint news release.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.