Ephrata Community Hospital has longstanding relationship with the Plain Community - WellSpan Health

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Ephrata Community Hospital has longstanding relationship with the Plain Community


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hospital offers special services to 40,000 members in its service area

Ephrata Community Hospital’s Plain-friendly reputation has spread far and wide.
Ephrata Community Hospital’s Plain-friendly reputation has spread far and wide. Amish and Mennonites come from across the state, as well as Delaware, Virginia and Kentucky.

They are the Plain Community—people who treasure simplicity—such as Old Order Amish and Mennonites. Their way of life excludes health insurance, meaning they pay cash for health care.

Ephrata Community Hospital nurtures a longstanding relationship with the Plain Community. The hospital offers special services to the roughly 40,000 members in its service area.

“The initiative is built first and foremost on trust,” said Joanne Eshelman, director of community relations at Ephrata Community Hospital. “We take seriously our responsibility to respect the religious and cultural values of this community.”

For cash-paying patients, cost is always a key concern.

“These folks are savvy shoppers,” Eshelman noted. “They’ll go to the hospital that gives them the best deal.”

Eshelman said some Amish and Mennonites have traveled as far as Mexico for treatment. Her office works to show them that affordable, quality care is available close to home.

A hospital liaison regularly meets with deacons, and helps families navigate the health care system.

The hospital offers all-inclusive package pricing, which makes comparison shopping easy, and eliminates the typical blizzard of bills.

“We put together a booklet each year with a price list of the most common procedures,” Eshelman said. “And for services that aren’t package-priced, we offer a discount based on the fact that they are paying in advance.”

But it’s about more than just cost.

“They’re looking for a sensitivity to their culture,” she explained.

Oncologists at Ephrata Cancer Center understand that some Plain Community members might first wish to try alternative treatments. “Our physicians and staff will say, ‘We are here for you. If you choose to come back, we’ll move forward.’”

The hospital’s Plain-friendly reputation has spread far and wide. Amish and Mennonites come from across the state, as well as Delaware, Virginia and Kentucky. In Pennsylvania’s northern tier, some mothers regard Ephrata Community Hospital as the only place to have a baby.

In 2013, Amish leaders requested additional health care services in southern Lancaster County. The hospital responded with a new family practice in Bart Township. The practice accepts walk-ins, which is convenient for patients with limited phone access.

The final component is preventive care. Eshelman said the hospital recently secured a grant from the American Cancer Society, which will be used to bring breast cancer screenings to the Plain Community.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to do outreach and health education in that community,” she said.

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