Editor's note: This is the first in a series of four stories on businesses being inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.
TYRONE - Stephen Gildea compares Tyrone Hospital's recovery to a phoenix rising from the ashes.
"This place was on the brink, a month or two from closing. We had lost the confidence of the community," said Gildea, who became chief executive officer in 2009 while the hospital was going through bankruptcy. "Now we've regained that. It takes some high-quality physicians and nursing staff, and we have that. We have come a long way in two years."
(Mirror photo illustration by Gary M. Baranec and Hannah Frank)
Stephen Gildea, CEO of Tyrone Hospital, talks about regaining the trust of the community at the facility on Sept. 14.
Tyrone Hospital is one of four businesses that will be inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 17 at the Blair County Convention Center.
"It is quite an honor. It is an indication of our evolution out of bankruptcy. We are viable again," Gildea said. "It is quite a recognition. We have been through a lot and are back and ready to move forward."
Tyrone Hospital's beginning goes back to the early 1900s when Harvey Gray, a prominent Tyrone businessman, and his wife, Adda, bequeathed $150,000 to be used as "seed money" to establish Tyrone Hospital.
"The vision of one man planted the seed that would eventually become Tyrone Hospital. Collaboration among community residents, businesses and social and civic groups brought this vision to fruition," said Hall of Fame Committee Chairwoman Claudia Montero Pequignot of Allegheny Ridge Corp.
It took years to put the plan together. Donated funds included a contribution from Tyrone's famous son, Fred Waring, who gave a benefit concert in Tyrone to support the cause.
Tyrone Hospital opened and accepted its first patient on Sept. 20, 1954.
Tyrone Hospital's first few decades of operation were marked by profitability and expansion of its medical staff and services, and facility and technology upgrades.
In 2004, Tyrone Hospital converted to a critical care access hospital. The government program, designed to support the financial performance of small hospitals, provided cost-based reimbursement from Medicare.
"It was a plan to help the small rural hospitals who didn't have the higher-end procedures. We didn't have the high volume and procedures that you make a lot of money on," Gildea said. "It helped the hospital move toward financial stability."
However, in September 2006, Tyrone Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, many people questioned the long-term viability of Tyrone Hospital, but hospital leaders pressed forward.
In March 2009, a final plan to emerge from bankruptcy was submitted and 17 months later, Tyrone Hospital was fully emerged from bankruptcy.
Gildea helped to spearhead the turnaround.
"We focused on quality. We believed if we had quality physicians and services, people would come back to Tyrone Hospital. We focused on performance and quality measures," Gildea said. "We are now looking at profitability. It is all about relationships with the customers, physicians and community. I've worked hard to build relationships."
The hospital staff was important to the turnaround.
"To regain the confidence of the community is all about the people providing the care. It is the community of Tyrone's hospital; it is all about them. If you have a good staff and provide good quality care, people will come to the hospital," Gildea said.
Today, Tyrone Hospital is licensed for 25 beds. In April, a project was launched to convert all of the hospital's semi-private inpatient rooms to "private suites," which will reduce the bed capacity to 19.
"Patients prefer private rooms. They have recliners and flat screen TVs to provide privacy and comfort," Gildea said. "We are trying to make their experience here like a family experience."
The hospital has approximately 200 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the Tyrone area. The majority of patients come from northern Blair County, southern Centre County and parts of Huntingdon and Clearfield counties.
"With the opening of [Interstate] 99 in both directions, we are bringing patients here from State College and Altoona because of the specialists we have at the hospital," Gildea said.
Relationships formed with regional health providers in recent years have expanded the services at Tyrone. Added services include the Keystone Headache and Pain Management Center, Advanced Regional Center for Ankle and Foot Care, the University Orthopedic Clinic at Tyrone Hospital, Altoona Lung Specialist Clinic, ProCare Rehabilitation and Blair Orthopedic Clinic at Tyrone Hospital.
This summer, Skytop Surgical, a general surgery practice with focused expertise in breast cancer, opened on the hospital's campus.
Gildea said efforts to pull the hospital out of bankruptcy were exhausting but rewarding.
"It was the biggest challenge I have ever taken on. This was a major undertaking, and it is very rewarding. I feel very proud of what has been accomplished here," Gildea said. "A lot of people are still here and went through the tough times. The people who stayed are the dedicated people."
The next step is to upgrade the hospital's infrastructure, including the heating and air conditioning systems. Gildea said the hospital will embark on a capital campaign for that.
"It will be a new hospital by the end of 2012," he said.
Tyrone Hospital is prepared to provide quality care for area residents into the future. Gildea said the hospital sees itself as the front door to health care for many people.
"Tyrone Hospital has re-established viability and respect in the eyes of its peers and the communities it serves. It's a remarkable story," Montero Pequignot said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.