On the hill north of Philipsburg, there is a giant monument of stone and brick and asphalt and history.
The old bones that used to be Philipsburg Area Hospital have been bleaching in the sun since April 2006, when the doors were closed and locked. All the patients were sent away. So were all the employees.
There were plans to bring back some kind of medical facility in the building. They fell through. There were studies on what to do. It remains closed.
But for people in the Moshannon Valley, what has eight years with no hospital in the backyard meant in a world where health care is a daily topic in politics and on television?
For some, it has meant travel. As someone who drove 40 miles in Christmas snow to have a baby, I can tell you that is not a stellar option. I don’t suggest you try it if there’s a way around it. In Philipsburg, though, there isn’t.
For more day-to-day issues, however, other providers have stepped in to fill the void.
Geisinger-Philipsburg sits just across the lawn that still serves as a helicopter landing zone in case of emergencies. That has been its home since 1974, but for the past eight years, its diverse services have become more crucial to the community.
It has been a mini-hospital, a place to see a cardiologist for your heart, a pulmonologist for your lungs or a dermatologist for that weird mole, plus services like CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds without leaving town.
Penn Highlands Clearfield, while still known as Clearfield Hospital, opened a facility at Peebles Plaza that provides primary physician care but it’s also a place to pop in for an X-ray or blood work.
Tyrone Hospital also has brought a satellite office to the area this summer with the Rural Health Center in Houtzdale, with one doctor and two physician assistants, calling it a “first step in the health care process closer to home.”
Other doctors’ offices, physical therapists, dentists, chiropractors and more provide ongoing care through the Philipsburg area, but that still doesn’t stop locals from occasionally looking toward the big building on the hill and asking when someone is going to do something with it — and if it will ever be a hospital again.