South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

UPMC to end surgeries at outpatient center this summer

Fate of other services unknown at this time


South Side Hospital in the early 1900s. The UPMC South Side Mercy Outpatient Center across Mary Street will cease performing outpatient surgeries this summer.

Last week UPMC, citing $10 million in needed repairs, announced plans to discontinue performing outpatient surgeries at UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center this summer.

Surgeries will be moved to UPMC hospitals while the urgent care center, rehab facilities, imaging and testing facilities may remain for the time being.

The original South Side Hospital was chartered in 1889 by three doctors in a Mary Street warehouse. It had beds to accommodate 30 patients. By 1893 a new South Side Hospital with 70 beds was erected on the corner of Mary and 20th streets and eventually grew to encompass five buildings including a residential nursing school.

In 1979, South Pittsburgh residents rallied when the Allegheny County Sub-Area Council of the Health Systems Agency (HSA) rejected the South Side Hospital's request to build a new hospital. In a show of support, more than 450 area residents attended a meeting to explain why the hospital was necessary.

At the meeting, Msgr. Michael Polloway of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church stated, "If this hospital is closed, how long would it take to go over potholes and across bridges to get emergency care? What if they take our hospital and close the 10th Street Bridge? How many minutes would it take to go elsewhere then?"

After rejecting a proposal for a new 300-bed and a second proposal for a 270-bed hospital citing concerns on how a new facility would impact other hospitals in the area, HSA approved a new 255-bed hospital for South Side.

Plans called for a new eight-story hospital to be build adjoining the current facility with a parking garage to be added later. The parking garage would be located on the site of the existing hospital after it was demolished.

Those plans were changed when the hospital wasn't able to purchase Marshall Elevator's property on Mary Street.

Plan B became a five-story, 225-bed, facility across Mary Street, the location of the employee parking lot. Temporary parking was leased for employees at Josephine and 21st streets.

Nearly 500 members of the community, public officials and the "hospital family" attended the dedication of the new South Side Hospital in November 1982.

The new $39 million hospital replaced five interconnecting buildings, the oldest of which dated back to the late 1800s. The new facility contained several "state of the art" features at the time, including an innovative nurse call system and an efficiency of design enabling the hospital to conserve on utility costs.

Moving into the South Side Hospital began the day after Christmas in 1982 and even though it was just across the street, took about a week.

In the early 1990s, The South Side Hospital Board of Directors completed a nearly four-year strategic initiative to "address the changing health care environment, a deliberate process to select an affiliation partner," according to George J. Korbakes, president of the hospital at the time.

The hospital had elected to enter into a loose affiliation with UPMC in 1994 and officially became University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – South Side on May 1, 1996. The agreement for the sale of the hospital to UPMC called for a "significant portion" of the proceeds to create a community foundation, the Birmingham Foundation, at the South Side facility to provide funding for community health care needs.

In 2008, UPMC officials said they would be closing UPMC – South Side as a full-service facility because of skyrocketing costs in the medical field where more specialized technology was making it almost impossible for small community hospitals to exist. The trend in recent years had been toward more regionally-based hospitals where specialized services were economically more feasible.

At the time, UPMC officials cited a dwindling amount of in-patient beds in use at the hospital (less than 30 patients per day). They said the hospital has been operating at a great budget deficit for years and it had only remained open to that point because it was supported by UPMC's vast resources.

On July 1, 2009 the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center officially started operations.

It offered patients a variety of same-day surgical options including sports medicine and surgeries on routine matters such as cataracts, orthopedics and ophthalmology. There were no overnight stays for patients.

The former UPMC South Side emergency department changed into an urgent care center providing patients with access to physicians to treat problems like sprains, minor cuts, broken bones, colds and flu. Initially, such services were available without appointment 12-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week.

Noncomplex imaging services such as X-ray, fluoroscopy, EKG, and mammography continued to be available. Colonoscopies and routine blood work were also still performed. The center continued to offer a gastrointestinal lab, medical procedures unit, outpatient phlebotomy and pain management services.

The outpatient center saw an increase of services offered when UPMC added the Centers for Rehab Services and an Infusion Service Center to the first floor of the facility in 2010. However, hours for the urgent care center were reduced to six-days-a-week with Sunday hours eliminated.

While outpatient surgeries will no longer be performed in South Side after June of this year, the future of other health services in the building remains unclear at this time.

The South Side Planning Forum has requested a UPMC representative attend its April 10 meeting to address coming changes at the facility, although at press time a representative hasn't committed to attend.


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