Change is tough.
"There's the economy and the status of the state budget. It didn't make sense to have two full-blown hospitals so close to each other. I know this is a sensitive issue. This is your hospital and this is your community," said a guest speaker at the Allentown Community Development Corporation June 25 meeting who acknowledged that changes were sometimes hard to accept.
Merle Taylor, administrator for the new UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, was invited by the Allentown CDC to attend the meeting as a guest speaker and to explain the changes that will occur due to the merged operations of the two facilities.
He told what services would be available at the South Side site that will now handle outpatients. He also said, "We're excited to be there."
On July 1 the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center will officially start operations.
It will offer patients a variety of same-day surgical options including sports medicine and surgeries on routine matters such as cataracts, orthopedics and ophthalmology. There will be no overnight stays for patients.
The former UPMC South Side emergency department will change into an urgent care center providing patients with easy access to physicians to treat problems like sprains, minor cuts, broken bones, colds and flu. Such services will be available without appointment 12 hours a day seven days a week.
Noncomplex imaging services such as X-ray, fluoroscopy, EKG, and mammography will be available. Colonoscopies and routine blood work will be done there. The center will also offer a gastrointestinal lab, medical procedures unit, outpatient phlebotomy and pain management services.
Physician offices with a wide array of primary care and specialty services will remain in the Roesch-Taylor medical building and throughout the South Side community.
Rich Masilon, who lives on the South Side Slopes near Allentown, complained that his regular 9:30 a.m. doctor's appointment would be changed to 11:30 a.m. because the doctor has to go to Mercy first. "I'm concerned with access. They say it is not going to be a problem but it is," he said.
Support groups and classes such as diabetes education and smoking cessation and participation in community activities will continue, Mr. Taylor said. Judy Hackel, Allentown CDC president, invited UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center representatives to participate in the National Night Out activities which will be celebrated in Allentown on August 4 and usually attracts a crowd of more than 300. He in turn invited everyone to attend the outpatient center's open house to be held in September. No date is scheduled yet. "We're trying to attract a sports celebrity," Mr. Taylor said.
The hospital's cafeteria is closed and will be replaced by a café where the gift shop was that will sell snacks and fresh breakfast and lunch items eight hours a day.
"I hope you changed the food at Mercy. It's terrible," Nicole Ballard, of the county's day reporting center, who regularly attends the meetings, said. She recalled visiting the Mercy cafeteria several years ago. "My jello was hot and my soup was cold," she said. Mr. Taylor assured her that the food is greatly improved.
He said they are arranging a special service by van to assist outpatients who visit the center but are told by physicians that day they also need to go to UPMC Mercy. He said a van shuttle would transport them from the center to Mercy, wait for them and take them back to the center. He expected that service to be available within two weeks.
UPMC Mercy will offer inpatient and emergency services – such as trauma, burn and ENT – at its 24-hour emergency department.
"Welcome to the neighborhood," Ms. Hackel told Mr. Taylor.
In other business, Ms. Hackel said its board decided to change bylaws to revise the Allentown CDC meeting schedule due to lack of attendance. The CDC will hold bi-monthly meetings instead of regular monthly meetings. As required, Ms. Hackel was announcing the change at the first of two consecutive meetings.
Father Victor Cianca, of the Arabic Catholic Diocese of the USA, said he will celebrate the Feast Day of St. Rocco, the patron saint of sickness, at 5 p.m. Aug. 16 at Grandview Park. The ceremony will feature a procession, Italian music and refreshments. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Mr. Taylor gave attendees a schedule with times and phone numbers for the outpatient center's various departments:
Main Lobby, 412 488-5550, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat;
Surgical Services, 412 488-5550, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon-Fri;
Urgent Care Center, 412 488-5705, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon-Sun;
Diagnostic Services, 412 488-5751, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon-Fri and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat and Sun;
Other Procedural Services, 412 488-5908, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon-Fri;
Physician and Educational Services, 412 488-5550, hours vary;
Gift Shop and Café, 412 488-5976, 6:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon-Fri.