Scranton pain clinic to close

SCRANTON – Geisinger will close its Scranton pain clinic, which cares for hundreds of patients with chronic and acute pain conditions each year, by the end of September.

The health system is consolidating pain care in the region at the Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre hospital.

Geisinger is “working toward a long-term clinic location that will allow us to return our pain services to Scranton,” according to a written statement.

After South Wilkes-Barre, Geisinger’s next closest pain clinic is at its flagship medical center near Danville.

Geisinger is already notifying patients of the change.

Three nurses who worked in the Scranton clinic at Geisinger Community Medical Center have jobs elsewhere within the health system, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the union that represents 432 nurses at the hospital.

The union still takes issue with the consolidation and worries that the few pain specialists in Lackawanna County will be unable to serve patients who now receive care at GCMC.

“We have only a few pain doctors in the county and it’s not clear that they can accept the hundreds of patients we serve at the hospital’s clinic,” Roben Schwartz, president of the local at GCMC Northeast Pennsylvania Nurses Association, said in a statement.

Patients who receive pain care also go to GCMC for other things, such as orthopedic and acute illness care, she said.

“It just makes sense to have a pain clinic available from a patient care perspective,” she said.

The union also worries that older, disabled or poor patients must travel farther to reach another clinic.

County of Lackawanna Transit System has no shared ride vehicles that go into Luzerne County, said Executive Director Bob Fiume. However, those services could be expanded if there is an established need, he said.

COLTS’ paratransit service, which is subsidized by government programs, has transfer arrangements with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, formerly called the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. Patients who qualify can get a ride, but will have to transfer to a Luzerne County paratransit vehicle near the county line.

For those who don’t mind taking the fixed-route bus, NEPTA buses visit the Lackawanna Transit Center five times a day.

“Our systems work seamlessly; Bob (Fiume) and I set that up years ago,” NEPTA Executive Director Norm Gavlick said, explaining that 31-day and unlimited-day passes work on both agencies’ fare boxes.

“Seniors can ride free anywhere in the state, so that’s not a factor for them either if they use the fixed route system,” he said.

Bus-riding patients must switch buses at the Wilkes-Barre intermodal center to get to Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre.

A third option is Geisinger’s ongoing pilot project with Rabbittransit, a York-based agency. Patients who don’t qualify for subsidized ride services may be eligible for Rabbittransit.

In that case, Rabbit coordinates the ride, COLTS or NEPTA provides the transportation and Geisinger pays for it.

“That pilot was set up purposely for this kind of reason,” Gavlick said. “It’s been doing very well.”


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