From the moment UPMC announced four years ago that it was paying $19 million to buy 12 acres in Monroeville just a half-mile up the road from Forbes Regional Hospital, just about everyone figured the motivation was to try to crush its competitor.
Not so, UPMC officials insisted Thursday during a tour for media of the seven-story, $250 million, 156-bed hospital, UPMC East, that will open July 2.
"It wasn't about them," said Joseph T. Badalich, UPMC's senior project manager who oversaw UPMC East's design and construction. "It was about our patient base and serving them out here."
In fact, Mr. Badalich said his wife has worked as a patient aide at Forbes for 24 years and he and his wife's "hope is creating a medical corridor here."
The healthy competition between the two hospitals will make both better, he said, "and result in better patient care."
If that's to happen, it will mean UPMC East will have to attract thousands of patients, some of whom now go to Forbes.
One way UPMC hopes to attract patients is by making the patient experience easier and more comfortable, from reducing the time spent in the emergency room by doing most lab tests on site, to making sure visitor elevators open up so that a patient or their family sees a person who can help them right away.
Another way is to raise the bar for technological innovations.
"This, as you'll see before you, is truly a state-of-the-art facility," said Mark Sevco, the hospital's president.
The building will include what officials said are numerous innovations, including: smart-glass doors to patient rooms that turn either clear, so staff can see in, or opaque, for privacy, at the flip of a switch, eliminating infection-causing door curtains; a boom in the intensive care unit rooms that can move oxygen, gas lines and electrical outlets anywhere in the room via a ceiling-track system; and a completely paperless, electronic record system, second in the region only to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
But the most important issue to a construction manager like Mr. Badalich was basic: "I'm on time and I'm on budget. Those were my two mandates. Timing helped. Because we started this in 2008 when the economy was down, we got good pricing and the best contractors on everything."
UPMC seems confident that it will be able to attract the patients it needs to justify construction of a $250 million building that was opposed by so many.
When it opens, the hospital will have more than 400 employees, at least 75 more than it thought it would need just a few years ago, said Michael Anderson, UPMC East's vice president of human resources.
The figure increased because "we're anticipating our [patient] volume is going to be a little higher," he said.
UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko referred to an agreement reached between Highmark and UPMC that will allow Highmark insurance patients to be covered if they use UPMC East for care, not just Forbes Regional Hospital, which is part of West Penn Allegheny Health System that Highmark is in the process of buying.
Sean D. Hamill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2579. First Published June 1, 2012 4:00 AM