South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

UPMC officials want people to know ‘we're still here' in S.S.


November 30, 2010

"We're still here," Kelly Sassaman, executive director of the UPMC Mercy South Side Out Patient Center, told members of the Allentown Community Development Corp. at their November meeting. "But we're not a hospital."

For not being a hospital, there's a lot of health care being taken care of at the facility according to Ms. Sassaman, who in addition to the South Side center also directs four other UPMC outpatient centers south of the Monongahela River. Utilization of services is up 10 to 30 percent over the last year in South Side.

Among the services still offered at South Side are same day surgery, physical therapy, lab work, infusion and imaging.

The operating rooms, limited to surgeries less than four hours in duration, are doing "fantastic" with between 280 and 360 procedures scheduled every month. Currently many of the procedures are orthopedic and eye cases.

The Center of Rehab Services has recently moved into the building and offers a variety of physical therapy including for stroke, spine and orthopedic patients. Later hours are offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Ms. Sassaman said another addition to the facility is the Infusion Center on the main floor. The center recently moved to South Side from UPMC Mercy.

Open Monday through Friday, the Infusion Center offers therapy for plasma and platelet services among others.

Patients are still able to come to South Side for much of their medical imaging. The Radiology Department offers all routine services including bone density scanning, mammography and MRIs.

"You can still get same day appointments," Ms. Sassaman said. She added because of today's digital technology, specialists at UPMC Mercy are able to read the images, usually the same day they are taken.

And for GI procedures, they use semi-private rooms. Something important to note she said were that the rooms have their own bathrooms.

Also occupying space in the facility is an area where they are developing hospital "Smart Rooms." A venture between IBM and UPMC, Smart Rooms will enhance the patient experience through technology.

She explained in the Smart Room, patients will have a big 40 inch screen where a patient's information will be available. Next to it will be a smaller screen that will notify and display hospital personnel's information and what their tasks include when they enter the room.

"It's really successful in test programs," Ms. Sassaman said.

Recently UPMC also moved 150 Information Technology (IT) people into the top level of the former hospital. Plans call for adding 120 more IT people for a total of 270 in several locations in South Side.

Another change is the rebranding of the urgent care center into the UPMC Walk-In Primary Care Clinic administered my Jorge Lindenbaum, MD.

While it was Ms. Sassaman's first visit to the Hill Top, Dr. Lindenbaum was familiar with the area. He first began working with Dr. George McCollum at the former South Side Hospital in 1977.

He said it was a "shock to all of us" when UPMC announced plans to close South Side on June 30 of last year and turn it into an outpatient center.

"Today everything is out patient," he explained. "Open heart surgery is three days and you're out."

"Our mission at South Side is to get things done the day you need it," he added. "It's unbelievable what we can do."

As far as changing the urgent care to a walk-in clinic model, the services will remain the same. The Walk-In Primary Care Clinic will be open six days a week: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. After evaluating the hours, they determined the hours when the services were most needed.

"We would rather do it the hours that we're needed," Dr. Lindenbaum said.

Patients can come there for everything from sore throats and ear aches to minor broken bones and physical exams and vaccinations. If a patient needs more extensive treatment or services they will be sent to UPMC Mercy.

One topic that continues to come up in conversations, Ms. Sassaman said, is if the cafeteria that was in the hospital will reopen anytime soon. She said (UPMC) knows they have to increase the food service currently available in the facility. Currently there are about 425 people working in the building with the coffee shop serving only a limited menu.

They are currently exploring options for food service in the building, both internally in the UPMC system and externally with outside contractors. However, at this time it's unknown if the restaurant will be open to the community.

In closing, Ms. Sassaman said UPMC is not planning to close the South Side out patient center, "they're planning to bring as much outpatient facilities as possible."


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