UPMC plans to donate hospital to Braddock

Calls West Penn ads a 'publicity stunt'

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A UPMC spokesman said the health system is willing to let the West Penn Allegheny Health System take over its Braddock hospital for free, but will not negotiate directly with its rival.

Instead, UPMC will donate the 123-bed hospital to the community after the hospital closes Jan. 31, and local officials can give it to West Penn Allegheny if the other system wants to run it, said Paul Wood, UPMC's vice president of media relations.

That offer doesn't hold much hope for continuing operations at Braddock, though.

West Penn Allegheny CEO Christopher Olivia already said in full-page newspaper ads last week that "I wish the West Penn Allegheny Health System ... had the financial resources to run the Braddock hospital, but we do not."

In the ads, Dr. Olivia suggested that if UPMC abandoned construction of a new hospital in more affluent Monroeville, it would have enough money to keep operating its facility in Braddock, one of the poorest communities in the county.

He reiterated that yesterday, adding: "We are not motivated by a desire to own additional facilities. Rather, we are concerned that the residents of Braddock and the surrounding area have adequate access to quality care in their community."

But West Penn Allegheny's unwillingness to take over Braddock shows the ads were "nothing but a desperate, phony publicity stunt," Mr. Wood argued.

A recent Moody's Investors Services report on West Penn Allegheny said the system's admissions declined 1.4 percent in fiscal 2009, and got worse as the year went along. Mr. Wood said the real motive for West Penn Allegheny's ads was to protect patient volumes at its Forbes Regional Campus in Monroeville.

"How do you get that volume? -- by trying to stifle competition in the eastern suburbs," he said. "Their ad is about that issue; it's not about their concern for Braddock."

Mark Roth can be reached at mroth@post-gazette.com or at 412-263-1130.


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