Dr. Jorge Lindenbaum, director of the UPMC Walk-in Primary Care Clinic at the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, was the primary speaker at the Feb. 15 meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus also spoke briefly prior to Dr. Lindenbaum.
The meeting began with Peter Kreuthmeier updating attendees on efforts to establish a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) in the South Side.
He and Misi Bielich are the Slopes' representatives to the South Side Planning Forum, which reached consensus a week earlier on proceeding with the process toward establishing a NID that could include residential and commercial properties.
The next step, he said, is the formation of a steering committee to create a plan that sets boundaries, fees, governance structure, a management association, and more. But conclusion of that process is well more than a year away. The NID would not become law until passed by city council.
Mr. Kraus explained a NID is created in a specific area that wants public-use improvements to supplement limited city resources, such as security patrols, infrastructure upgrades, streetscape beautification, and more.
An assessment is levied on area properties to fund the improvements. But 60 percent of the property owners within the NID boundaries must first agree to the assessment, said Mr. Kraus.
If city council agrees to the NID, the city would collect the assessment fees and turn them over to the NID's management team.
A NID could help avoid the vacuum of services when the South Side Local Development Company dissolves, he said.
In other news, Mr. Kraus, a board member of Carnegie Library, said two projects were recently approved: a $2-$4 million renovation of the South Side branch; and the merger of the Knoxville and Carrick libraries into a new library building to be built on the Hilltop.
City council voted to spend $100,000 to bring the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) to Pittsburgh. The non-profit RHI promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups. Its approach is communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration among stakeholders.
He also said a spray park is coming to the Warrington Recreation Center, while a dog park is planned for the summer on two acres in South Side Riverfront Park. The Dept. of Public Works cleared and fenced space for the latter.
In his presentation, Dr. Lindenbaum said he did not agree with the decision to "close" South Side Hospital — although it never truly closed.
"We are better off today than we were two years ago," he said.
The Walk-in Primary Care Clinic can do 90 percent of what an emergency room does, he said. Some of the ailments they treat on a daily basis include back pain, joint pain, flu, falls, rashes, earaches, and more. Readily available services include x-rays, lab work, mammograms, colonoscopies, pain clinic.
No appointment is required. The walk-in clinic is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Sunday.
About 35 patients a day are treated in the walk-in clinic. The rest of the building is also active, he said, such as same-day surgeries. About 70 to 75 percent of space in the building is now occupied.
"We need the community to remember that we are there," he said.
An attendee commented he walked in and was treated after work. He said he liked the doctor, and asked if the doctor can become his primary care physician (PCP).
Dr. Lindenbaum said yes, the doctor has his own office on site.
To a question of how a severe chest pain would be handled, Dr. Lindenbaum said if they felt a patient's life was in danger, an ambulance would be called, arriving in two to three minutes to transport the patient to UPMC Mercy.
Questioned whether Medicaid patients are accepted, he said yes, even someone with no insurance.
"We do not discriminate," he said.
To a question of whether it's still possible to get blood tests there, he said yes. There is also less waiting time than at hospitals, he said, and with more parking available, the entire process is quicker.
Questioned about what he sees happening with the center three years from now, Dr. Lindenbaum sees it as the same or bigger. There are two large buildings across from the parking lot with physicians whom he expects to remain, he said.
Kelly Sassaman, administrator of the Outpatient Center, said hospital officials hope to reopen the cafeteria. With surgery numbers rising, staff frequently have only 30 minutes for lunch, which is not enough time to leave the building to eat. Instead, they hope to provide food on site.
Dr. Lindenbaum said seniors also used to come to the cafeteria to eat as a social gathering. But with no alcohol involved, vendors feel it will be tough to make money, he said.
The next SSSNA meeting will be a "Meet the Candidates Night" on April 12.