Braddock officials preparing for action after hospital closes
October 22, 2009 10:00 AM
Jeannette Stanton, 80, a lifelong resident of Braddock, speaks about closing UPMC Braddock Hospital at Tuesday's meeting.
By Moriah Balingit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Following a meeting at which residents voiced anger and frustration over the impending closure of UPMC Braddock, public officials said they hope to move past the vitriol and start coming up with solutions to problems the small borough will face when the hospital shuts Jan. 31.
And already, some Braddock residents are mobilizing to find a tenant for the building, which the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said it would give to any organization or nonprofit with a "viable" use for it.
Mayor John Fetterman and council President Jesse Brown said Tuesday's meeting -- which also included UPMC officials -- was successful insofar as it allowed people to vent. But both said they want the next meeting with the community, to be organized by Heritage Health Center, to produce ideas and solutions.
"Now what we need to do is proceed and see what we can keep in this place," Mr. Brown said.
Between emotional pleas to keep the hospital open and angry rants directed at UPMC officials, some meeting participants offered suggestions and ideas on what to do after the hospital closes.
Mr. Brown said he hopes UPMC will keep some of its outpatient programs in the building and keep the cafeteria open. The cafeteria has become a gathering place for residents.
And Mayor Fetterman said he wanted to find other ways for UPMC to be involved in the community.
He said Jeffrey Romoff, UPMC president and chief executive officer, was receptive to the idea of creating a scholarship for the Woodland Hills School District that would be similar to Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship fund in which the ultimate goal is to provide scholarships for all graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Mr. Romoff and UPMC were instrumental in funding that program.
Longtime Braddock resident Warren Mebane, a doctor at the Allegheny County Jail, suggested courting another hospital provider for the borough, a process he said he would help to facilitate. Dr. Mebane has mobilized a network of Braddock natives who now live all over the country to help find a solution.
He said he'd already been in touch with friend and Braddock native Darryl King, president of the Houston Urban League and a successful businessman who had connections to medical providers in Texas. And Dr. Mebane has been on the phone with attorneys, formerly of Braddock, in Washington, D.C., to see whether they knew of any potential buyers.
He urged the crowd not to lose hope because UPMC was pulling its facility out of Braddock.
"There's all kinds of options," he said. "They don't begin and end with UPMC."
Heritage Health Foundation President Bob Grom said he was "in pain" over the loss of UPMC Braddock. For years, his organization fought for the survival of the previous hospital, Braddock Medical Center, and rejoiced in 1996 when it merged with UPMC. Still, he was confident the community would rebound.
"With all the energy in this room and all the talent at this table, Braddock is not dead," he said.