Jul. 29—PITTSTON TWP. — The cavernous interior previously housed aisles of food, clothing, toys, electronics and all the other stuff Walmart stocks, but within a year it will be home to nine medical clinics and other health services, with 154 employees.
Oh, and it will still have food, with a little cafe for patient and visitor convenience.
Geisinger on Wednesday announced the conversion of the former discount department store on Oak Street. With a total price tag of $80 million, the 124,000 square-foot structure will be modernized into the Geisinger Healthplex Centerpoint, offering services in "surgery and endoscopy, orthopaedics, urology, ophthalmology and retail eyewear, laboratory and imaging, and a hybrid medical and orthopaedic ConvenientCare," according to a media release.
Three of Geisinger's top administrators offered a quick look at the building, where the main entrance has been largely stripped down to bare bones, the doors and framing gone to allow construction vehicle access, and the interior floor stripped to the dirt. A constellation of temporary lights hangs from the exposed roof supports, dimly lighting rows of white posts in the ground.
Associate Vice President Daniel Landesberg described the various clinics to be available and pointed out it "will all be on one level, and centrally located" to serve people from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre. "We believe this reaffirms our commitment to the community, and to growth that provides greater access to more people.
The former department store site sits right near the junction of state Route 315, Interstate 81, and the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. While the 600-car parking lot is cracked, chipped and sporting a few construction vehicles and piles of dirt, renderings of the finished facility show a complete make over, including moving the main entrance closer to the center of the building. The facility is expected to open in July 2022.
Geisinger Northeast Region Chief Administrative Officer Ron Beer and Geisinger Chief Operating Officer Matt Walsh joined Landesberg at the site to answer questions and take a quick look at the progress. The idea of getting so many different services under one roof is to reduce the need for patients to travel to different facilities for related appointments, cutting wait times.
"When we looked at the services needed by our patients here in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, we realized we were limited by the space we had available," Beer said in the release.
The facility "will offer treatment options unique to the region," the release noted. "Bolstering a wide range of sports medicine, hand, and foot and ankle services, the orthopaedics team will perform arthroscopic hip procedures and wide awake local anesthesia no tourniquet (WALANT) procedures, which can treat conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis and reduce recovery times."
An eye-care program "will feature ophthalmic providers capable of delivering virtually any service a patient may need, including neuro ophthalmology care and pediatric ophthalmology care, which are currently limited in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. " LASIK surgery will also be available, the first time Geisinger is providing it in the Northeast region.
Plans call for offering extended hours for some diagnostic services, both by-appointment and walk-in
Geisinger took advantage of the announcement by noting other investments in Luzerne County since January of 2019:
—A $3.1 million, 8,000 square-foot inpatient wing at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre.
—A $22 million Central Utility Plant at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center that reduces energy use while making increasing the ability to handle future growth.
—A $3 million 65 Forward Health Center in Kingston for Geisinger members 65 and older
—A $6.5 million CyberKnife S7 for targeted radiation therapy at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center
—Ongoing renovation and expansion of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center and the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center at a total cost of $80 million.
—A $3 million 65 Forward Health Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
—A$3.3 million 65 Forward Health Center in West Hazleton.