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St. Luke's Sacred Heart to get $20M makeover

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Conceptual rendering by MKSD architects of South Whitehall Township of the emergency department at St. Luke's Sacred Heart Campus. (Contributed).
Conceptual rendering by MKSD architects of South Whitehall Township of the emergency department at St. Luke's Sacred Heart Campus. (Contributed).

St. Luke's University Health Network plans to invest $20 million to update the former Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, which is expected to see more patients.

SLUHN acquired the struggling Sacred Heart HealthCare System in February.

Before the physical changes begin, SLUHN plans to convert Sacred Heart’s medical records system to the EPIC system used throughout the network by June 23, said Frank Ford, chief integration officer at SLUHN.

Some Sacred Heart employees who work in accounting, billing and information technology will be transferred within the year to St. Luke’s Center, a 600,000-square-foot office building on 145 acres off Route 22 in Allentown.

St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus’ dated appearance will be made more consistent with the rest of the network, Ford said.

Changes will be made to lighten the look of the former Sacred Heart Hospital, which was built in 1912 at 421 Chew St. and faces a dark, narrow and congested street.

While the changes are still on the drawing board, some plans could include removing the overhead walkway, renovating the parking deck and improving the traffic pattern on Chew Street so visitors will have better access to the hospital, Ford said.

Walkability will be enhanced, since many patients who seek care at the hospital live nearby.

Other proposed changes include a redesigned lobby; more operating rooms to accommodate an anticipated 500 new cases this year; and expansions to the cancer center and behavioral health care.

John Nespoli, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus, said outpatient care, which had been increasing in Sacred Heart HealthCare System prior to the merger, is expected to continue to grow.

The Sigal Center for Family Medicine, which is next to the hospital, will double in size.

“I think St. Luke’s is happy to be part of the revitalization of the neighborhood,” said Nespoli, who was president and CEO of Sacred Heart for nine years before the merger.

Sacred Heart, which will continue to operate as a Catholic hospital under the merger agreement with SLUHN, will keep the large cross on the front of the building, Ford said.

“We are bringing our culture but we respect the culture there,” Ford said.

Sacred Heart will continue its mission to provide health care in its parish nursing program at five sites, which Nespoli said reaches the “poorest of the poor.”

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