By Clinton Martin
In December of 2021, Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant, the much–loved all–you–care–to–eat, family–style restaurant, closed its doors forever, bringing to a close a multigenerational business that had delighted tourists since the 1960’s.
The title of this article of course borrows its name from the world of soap operas and while the story of the venerated Smoketown landmark’s transition from restaurant to healthcare hasn’t been quite that dramatic, at times it has reminded me of a daytime TV plot twist.
The Amish seek professional healthcare when needed. They have no prohibition against modern medicine. So, seeing Amish at our local Lancaster County hospitals is not unusual. Yet, there is some culture clash that goes on, which became much more apparent in 2020 during the pandemic.
The appetite for the Amish to have their own hospital, where they would feel completely at home and comfortable, a modern healthcare facility without the culture shock, had been simmering under the surface for years. 2020 simply brought it to a boil.
When the Good ‘N Plenty building went on the market, a group of Amish investors quickly formed and bought it. The investor group chartered themselves as Well Spring Care Incorporated. Their vision was to create a hospital, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, staffed by professional, accredited physicians, open for anyone, but with a specific bent on serving the self–pay, Amish, Mennonite, and other Plain Community customers, with culturally sensitive and appropriate care.
Today, the building more or less sits idle – the vision being a bit more elusive and difficult to attain than what the investors had originally thought. Healthcare in America is highly regulated, with a compliance bureaucracy that the uninitiated can find quite daunting. The Amish haven’t given up on turning a former 600 seat restaurant into their own hospital, but the process is moving from idealistic, well–intentioned naivete into a pragmatic, drawn–out, slog to get there.
While the real estate itself has been purchased, and all the restaurant equipment has been emptied out and sold, renovations, medical equipment, and perhaps most importantly, hiring doctors, is the next step. Well Spring Care has established a $1.5 million fundraising goal for start–up money to accomplish this step. So far, 35% of this has been raised from community donations, from individuals, companies, and churches. They are also actively seeking an out–sourced, experienced management partner to run the facility. An entity with compliance and regulation knowledge and expertise.
For now, the vision is there, and the goal is being pursued. Time will tell if Lancaster County will indeed see an “Amish Hospital” serving patients.