The Post-Gazette series "UPMC: Forging a Giant Footprint" (Sept. 23-26) shows why ensuring a strong future for West Penn Allegheny Health System is crucial for everyone in our region. An affiliation that puts WPAHS on solid financial footing is vital to guarantee a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to UPMC's profit-hungry monopoly.
As the conflict between WPAHS and Highmark grows more polarized by the day, the more than 2,000 union nurses and health care workers of WPAHS remain focused on our core priorities: protecting high-quality care for patients and good jobs for our community.
We strongly oppose any effort to force our health system into a bankruptcy that could threaten quality care, employees' pensions and union contracts. We firmly support WPAHS management's rejection of such an outcome. Yet we are equally concerned that failure to complete the WPAHS-Highmark partnership as envisioned could open the door to the sale of our health system to an out-of-state, for-profit hospital corporation that would surely be more focused on its bottom line than on safe staffing for patients and retirement security of employees.
There are many ways that union nurses at WPAHS have set the standard for care in our region. Allegheny General is the only Pittsburgh hospital with contractually enforceable safe nurse-to-patient ratios, and nurses there have jointly developed cost-saving quality care innovations that put the patient first. WPAHS is a vital source of more than 12,000 good jobs for our community. Preserving this essential community asset is imperative for our region's future.
For this reason, over the last year we have strongly supported the proposed WPAHS-Highmark affiliation. Since the conflict erupted recently, the leaders of both entities have expressed a willingness to return to the table. We urge them to do that -- and quickly -- to resume their efforts to achieve an affiliation that is acceptable to both parties, protects quality care for patients, secures the pensions of caregivers, and preserves good, union jobs for our community.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania
The letter also was signed by these SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania chapter presidents: Cathy Stoddart, R.N., Allegheny General Hospital; Darlene Benny, R.N., Allegheny Valley Hospital; and Kim Bonnaure, Canonsburg General Hospital.