West Penn hospital consolidation to cost 1,500 jobs

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The jobs of up to 1,500 West Penn Allegheny Health System employees will be lost when its two city-based acute-care hospitals are consolidated, officials announced this morning at a press conference.

West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield will take the biggest hit, although a breakdown was not available. Most of the layoffs will begin in January.

The WPAHS consolidation has Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side providing the system's services in oncology, the neurosciences, critical care, orthopaedics and cardiovascular care, as well as comprehensive clinical and basic research programs.

West Penn Hospital will continue to support the Women's and Infants' Center, bariatric surgery program, the burn unit and inpatient rehabilitation services. Additional outpatient programs that may remain at the hospital also are under consideration.

All other medical and surgical programs at West Penn will be moved to AGH or other facilities. The restructuring is to be completed by the first quarter of 2011.

West Penn's emergency department will close in January.

"There is no more painful decision an organization can make than one that involves a loss of valued colleagues, many of whom have worked within the organization for a long time," said Christopher T. Olivia, WPAHS president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "We will do everything we can to assist them in this transition."

Eligible employees are expected to receive severance package offers as well as comprehensive outplacement assistance. The system will have a career center and counselors available to aid employees with resume preparation and job searches.

The system reported that West Penn Hospital has been operating at 47 percent of its patient capacity. More people are seeking outpatient care and more are turning to facilities outside of the city.

The hospital has 2,412 employees and is licensed for 505 beds. After the consolidation, it will have 202 beds.

It was announced in May that the Suburban Campus of AGH in Bellevue would become a comprehensive outpatient facility, with all inpatient care and surgical services transferred to other facilities in the system.

Two weeks ago, it was announced that a 55,000-square-foot ambulatory care and surgery center will be built in Peters Township.

West Penn Allegheny reported an $11.6 million operating loss for the nine-month period ending March 31, 2010.

"Our goal is to establish a thriving healthcare organization that has long-term viability in the region," Dr. Olivia said. "Although we have made significant progress, it has become clear that an even bolder strategy is necessary to move West Penn Allegheny from our current position to one of prosperity and growth."

The system will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the plan at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Immaculate Conception School auditorium on Edmond Street in Bloomfield.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

First Published June 29, 2010 1:45 PM


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