UPMC in China: The health care system has valued expertise to share

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If a Pittsburgh gas drilling company sent consultants to New Delhi to show India how to burn less coal, Pittsburghers would applaud. If a local maker of safety equipment partnered with South Africa to reduce mining accidents, people around the region would be proud.

UPMC’s five-year deal to help a hospital in China establish a 200-bed medical center should get the same positive reaction.

It won’t because of the community’s concern and confusion over UPMC’s pending divorce from Highmark. While the Jan. 1 split between the health-care system and the health-insurance provider must be accomplished fairly, humanely and with the highest regard for patient care, the issue should not obscure the fact that UPMC’s expertise is highly regarded, even in far-off corners of the world. Pittsburghers should feel the same about Highmark and its status as one of the nation’s health insurance leaders.

If local companies and institutions are valued outside the region, that respect accrues to Pittsburgh in general as a place where innovation can be nurtured and excellence can be achieved. But even when distant ventures bring revenue back home, as UPMC says its China work will, large local nonprofits should be judged and will continue to be judged on how they serve their hometown customers. Are their services effective? Are their prices fair? Do they treat their workers well? Are they good corporate citizens?

That must always be the bottom line for Pittsburgh charitable institutions that seek donations, receive tax exemptions and want the appreciation of their neighbors. It’s good that the Chinese can benefit from UPMC, but far better when Pittsburghers do.

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