Grant to help city deal with hospital layoffs

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The state Department of Labor and Industry has given the City of Pittsburgh a $500,000 grant to aid as many as 1,500 West Penn Hospital employees soon to be out of work because of a health system consolidation.

City personnel director Judy Hill Finegan said Wednesday the "Rapid Response" grant will be used to provide job counseling, preparation, placement and training services to the employees, who will be displaced with a consolidation of some services at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield and Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.

"We're pleased the state responded immediately to our request," she said.

The changes, driven by financial considerations and announced by West Penn Allegheny Health System in June, are to take effect around the end of the year.

West Penn Hospital will maintain some services, but its emergency department will close and the number of beds will drop from 505 to 202.

The announcement was a blow to the community and raised questions about the employees' prospects, the vitality of Bloomfield and the future of West Penn and the health system.

Health system officials, community leaders and elected officials met for two hours Wednesday in Mayor Luke Raventahl's office to discuss the issues. Councilman Patrick Dowd, who represents part of Bloomfield, said no game plan emerged.

Even before receiving the grant, the city, Allegheny County and Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board had deployed their Rapid Response Team to help the employees.

Since July 15, the team's career resource center at West Penn Hospital has been offering workshops on resume preparation, interviewing skills and stress management.

The city has assigned a senior administrator of CareerLink -- a service that provides job counseling and search assistance -- to work at the career center. It's also planning a "Help is Here" Fair -- a gathering of social -service and government agencies -- Aug. 4 and a job fair in October.


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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