A fear campaign

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UPMC's recent advertisements about potentially closing Shadyside and Mercy hospitals as a result of its contract dispute with Highmark are exceedingly concerning. Regardless of the level of health care competition in Pittsburgh, causing panic among patients who are in need of medical care -- some desperately -- is ethically and morally reprehensible. I sincerely hope that no UPMC physician was involved in developing this "fear" campaign, as it would clearly violate their Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm." Patients subjected to UPMC's public relations rhetoric are unquestionably harmed when such messaging deliberately causes anxiety and uncertainty about where or how their health care needs will be met.

And just what exactly is UPMC afraid of to go to such great and desperate lengths to upset its own patients and others in the community? If UPMC is truly the region's most desired health care provider, as it claims, then why try to scare or force people into choosing its services? Could it be that the Allegheny Health Network and Highmark are building a high-quality, lower-cost model of patient care that UPMC knows it ultimately cannot match? Because it would appear that from UPMC's perspective, a complete monopolization of health care in our region is the only answer to its long-term viability.

The line in the sand that UPMC has drawn with regard to its relationship with Highmark makes it abundantly clear that monopoly indeed is the sole business model it is capable of pursuing. I have yet to encounter anyone, outside of UPMC's administration and board of directors, who feels that this is an acceptable behavior for a charitable health care organization and that the people of Western Pennsylvania would not be better served by having quality choices for their health care needs.

It's high time that employers, government officials and everyone who lives in our region let their voices be heard and demand that UPMC live up to a higher standard.

JACK WILBERGER, M.D.
Sewickley

The writer is chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, Allegheny Health Network.


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