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Councilman to report on discussions with UPMC over hospital


January 13, 2009

South Pittsburgh residents and others protested the proposed closing of UPMC South Side during a Thanksgiving weekend rally across the street from the hospital. Community groups continue to work toward keeping the health care facility open and operating at a full service hospital.

Kraus believes UPMC may

keep more services in S.S.

Councilman Bruce Kraus has called a Town Meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m. at the South Side Market House, to report to the community on discussions the councilman and State Senator Jay Costa Jr., and State Reps. Chelsa Wagner and Harry Readshaw have had with UPMC officials on plans to close UPMC South Side.

The local officials met with UPMC President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff and UPMC Vice-President for Government Relations Robert Kennedy in December over plans to close the South Side hospital and move its operations to UPMC Mercy. The health system announced plans in June to renovate UPMC Mercy and relocate rehabilitation beds to UPMC Mercy "or other UPMC hospitals."

In an email in June, Elizabeth B. Concordia, executive vice president of UPMC, told employees that UPMC will move in-patient services to UPMC Mercy in about a year, but will continue to offer ambulatory services including an urgent care center, physicians' offices, imaging and ambulatory surgery in South Side for the next three to five years.

Nancy Magee, president of UPMC Magee, and Will Cook, president of UPMC Mercy, have attended several community meetings to explain plans for the consolidation and closing of South Side's hospital, most recently in December at a South Side Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

At the luncheon Ms. Magee said among the considerations for closing UPMC South Side and consolidating its facilities at UPMC Mercy was that area residents are choosing to go somewhere else rather that South Side.

"Mercy has more primary in-patients from this area than South Side did," she stated. According to the health system's statistics, patients from South Pittsburgh go to Mercy 23 percent of the time opposed to going to South Side only 15 percent of the time.

"The patient goes where the doctor tells them to," she said.

Hospital officials closed one in-patient unit last August and another the first of this year, but the services most used by patients, diagnostic imaging, laboratory and ambulatory surgery units have remained for now. They plan to transition the emergency room, which services nearly 23,000 patients a year, to an urgent care center operating for approximately 15 hours a day.

Mr. Cook told those attending the chamber luncheon that he is looking at moving some of the out-patient services from Mercy to South Side. In addition, he said they have commissioned a traffic study to look at the time it will take for patients and ambulances to get to Mercy, a parking analysis of the hospital, instituted valet parking and are doing a security assessment at the hospital on the Bluff.

In response to the announced closing of the hospital Mr. Kraus has been collecting letters of support from not only public officials, but residents of the South Side hospital's service area. In his meeting with the health system official, the councilman brought more than 600 letters with him.

After the December meeting with Mr. Romoff, the councilman said that he was hopeful that some hospital services would remain in South Side. He said that he came out of the meeting with the impression that there was "room for conversation" about closing the hospital and that "it was not a done deal."

The councilman said the December meeting was just the first in a series to discuss issues related to the closing of the hospital. Among those issues the councilman still wants to discuss are: the continued access to health care for area families, transportation challenges for area employees of UPMC and how the loss of a major employer may affect the local economy.

Mr. Kraus is concerned that the loss of more than 700 jobs could increase foreclosures in South Pittsburgh, particularly in the Hilltop communities. He said that vacant properties are already a problem on the Hilltop and if local residents lose their ability to work at the hospital it could increase mortgage foreclosures now estimated at 1,800 in those communities.

UPMC officials have said that out-patient services will remain in South Side as long as they are being used. Councilman Kraus said he wants a firm commitment on keeping the out-patient services in South Side calling it a "deal breaker" if the hospital officials decline to commit.

In addition to Mr. Kraus, State Reps. Readshaw and Wagner plan to be at the Town Meeting on January 14 at the Market House. State Sen. Costa will be in Harrisburg and is unable to attend. Representing UPMC will be Robert Kennedy, Nancy Magee and Will Cook.


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