West Penn Hospital unveils cardiovascular institute in Bloomfield today

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Three years after West Penn Hospital officials announced plans to move key clinical services to Allegheny General on the North Side as part of a systemwide restructuring, another of those services -- cardiovascular care -- is returning to the hospital's Bloomfield campus.

On Tuesday, officials from West Penn -- along with representatives of insurer Highmark and its new integrated delivery network, Allegheny Health Network -- publicly christened the new Cardiovascular Institute, which West Penn President and CEO Duke Rupert said "sends another very strong message to the community about West Penn's resurgence and clinical vitality."

The institute staff will see their first patients on Monday.

In the past 15 months, West Penn has reopened its emergency department and brought back neurosurgery, critical care and orthopedics services to Bloomfield on the strength of a $32 million investment from Highmark.

The investment appears to be paying off. In the first year after the emergency department reopened, West Penn averaged 525 surgeries per month, a 28 percent increase, and medical inpatient volume jumped 40 percent, to an average of 700 cases per month.

"It's back. It's back in full gear," said community activist Aggie Brose, deputy director of Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. "It's going to address all the health needs of our community and Allegheny County."

The West Penn institute, under the medical direction of Venkatraman Srinivasan, will feature the full range of interventional cardiac treatments, including heart catheterization, heart bypass and valve replacement, as well as implantation of pacemakers and defibrillators.

Because nearly all of the equipment from the original program is still at AGH, the West Penn unit features two new state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratories and an electrophysiology laboratory. Once the new program is established, West Penn hopes to perform six to 10 catheterizations daily.

The institute, located next to the South Millvale Avenue parking garage, signals a remarkable comeback for the hospital and Tuesday's ceremony carried the strong feel of a reunion for the staff and the community.

John Jashinski had been a nurse in West Penn's cardiovascular unit for more than nine years when it closed in 2010. He got a job at UPMC Mercy and liked it there, he said, but jumped at the chance to rejoin his former West Penn colleagues and re-launch the program.

Ms. Brose said the community and local businesses are happy to see West Penn returning to full strength, too.

When services at the hospital started closing down in 2010, "It left a gaping hole here," she said. "Now the excitement, the enthusiasm is back."

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Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1963. First Published May 7, 2013 1:00 PM


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