Community efforts to save UPMC South Side had slowed down somewhat during the Holiday Season but were still ongoing.
The South Side Planning Forum at its December meeting established a "steering committee" with its first charge to work towards keeping the long-time health care facility in the South Side.
The committee includes: Hugh Brannan, chair of the Forum; Brady Lutsko; Tom Smith; and staff members of the South Side Local Development Co. Nancy Lardo was nominated to the committee but declined citing a conflict of interest. A new committee member to replace Ms. Lardo should be selected at the next Planning Forum meeting.
The Save Our South Side Hospital Committee (SOSSHC), organizers of a letter writing campaign targeted at UPMC Board of Directors Chairperson G. Nicholas Beckwith III and a protest rally held on Thanksgiving weekend, have also continued its efforts at keeping the hospital in South Side.
The SOSSHC requested in writing a meeting with Mr. Beckwith to discuss the planned closing of the hospital. In a letter dated December 19, 2008, he responded:
"Members of UPMC's senior management are meeting with elected officials and community representative to address concerns about the consolidation [of UPMC South Side and UPMC Mercy]. UPMC is committed to continuing to serve residents [in] the South Side neighborhoods through its wide range of programs, services and facilities.
"Although inpatient services will be moving to UPMC Mercy, UPMC plans to maintain urgent care, diagnostic services, and other outpatient services in the South Side for as long as patient demand can support these operations."
Also in December, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell appeared on a PCN show taking calls from state residents. During the show the governor was questioned on what he knew about the closing of the hospital and if the state was involved. Mr. Rendell requested more information be forwarded to him for further review.
Responding by letter to the information forwarded to the governor was Stacy Mitchell, deputy secretary for quality assurance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health. Ms. Mitchell is responsible for ensuring appropriate quality standards are applied in Pennsylvania healthcare facilities, including hospitals.
"I understand the concerns that you and others have about the loss of inpatient heath care services in South Pittsburgh, however; each hospital or hospital system must assess the needs of the community that is served and the resources available to deliver health care services," she wrote.
"The Department of Health (Department) continues to work with hospitals and other providers to ensure that the services they offer are safe and effective. Each hospital or system must define the patients that they will serve, the nature of the health care they will provide and develop processes to monitor and improve their performance," she continued. "No agency, including the Department, has the authority to direct hospitals or other providers to continue to provide services."
Ms. Mitchell explained that UPMC South Side and UPMC Mercy have given the state the proper notice of their intent to merge the campuses under Mercy's license and provide in-patient services at Mercy. She also noted UPMC's stated intent to continue to provide out-patient services in South Side
She encouraged the SOSSHC to "continued to work with the leadership of UPMC to ensure that "they are aware of the health care needs of the community as they consider alternatives for health care delivery."
The Save Our South Side Hospital Committee will consider its next steps after attending Councilman Bruce Kraus' Town Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m. at the South Side Market House, to discuss the councilman's meeting with UPMC president and CEO Jeffrey Romoff.