Healthcare needs in the region are growing. How are health systems responding?

When the pandemic first surged across the country, you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing stories about a shortage of healthcare workers. But the pandemic only exacerbated a long-standing trend of increasing demand for healthcare services.

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing occupational fields in the country. Healthcare accounts for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that healthcare will add more jobs than any other sector over the next decade.

A significant factor behind the increasing demand for healthcare services is America’s aging population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there will soon be more older adults than kids for the first time in U.S. history. As the age of the population increases, so does the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, diabetic-associated issues, cardiac disease and other age-related conditions. And it’s not just seniors who are visiting the doctor more often. As health and wellness becomes a bigger part of the culture, more young people are prioritizing preventative and wellness care as well.

As the need for healthcare grows, so does the need for expanded services. According to the American Hospital Association, approximately 20% of hospitals are in need of expansion, and many hospitals around the country have already begun the process.

In northwestern and central Pennsylvania, Penn Highlands Healthcare has implemented a $111 million master facilities plan to grow its footprint and expand access to services and care throughout the 34-county region it serves. That expansion includes eight major projects that will modernize, improve and expand upon its services and facilities.

“This is truly an investment in the people within our communities,” said Mark Norman, Chief Operating Officer. “These projects will provide more people with greater access to the care they need to live healthy and happy lives.”

The projects include an expansion and renovation of the Penn Highlands DuBois East behavioral health facility; a new five-story annex at Penn Highlands DuBois West as well as a new Emergency Department; a new three-story building housing Centers of Excellence in orthopedics, pediatrics, and women’s health; Emergency Department renovations at Penn Highlands Clearfield; a new three-story Brookville Medical Office Building; renovations at Pinecrest Manor; and a new two-story outpatient facility in Clarion.

The Clarion Community Medical Building, which will open in October, will greatly increase access to outpatient health services in Clarion County. The new $6.2 million facility will offer a walk-in clinic, virtual care, primary care, retail pharmacy, rehabilitation services, laboratory services, imaging services, and specialty care clinics, including oncology, gastroenterology, OB/GYN, endocrinology, pulmonary care, orthopedics and sports medicine.

The expansion of its Behavioral Health Hospital will include more adult beds, more adolescent beds, and a detox unit to help properly serve the patients in our community.

“Even before the pandemic, we were seeing an increasing need in mental and behavioral health services in our region,” said Mark Norman. “The expansion of our Behavioral Health Hospital will help us better meet the needs of individuals who have historically been underserved.”

In addition to new construction projects, Penn Highlands recently announced their intent to affiliate with Monongahela Valley Hospital into its healthcare system. The affiliation will expand healthcare services in Monongahela Valley and enable Penn Highlands to serve more communities in the state.

To learn more about Penn Highlands’ vision for healthcare in northwestern and central Pennsylvania, visit