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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: West Penn Allegheny ponders the future of Bellevue hospital

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

By Steve Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Robin Rombach/Post-GazetteKathy Coder, Bellevue Council president, talks about the future of AGH Suburban and changes in the borough.A small Allegheny County community, struggling to improve the lives and livelihoods of its residents, fears it is about to lose its local hospital.

No, it's not UPMC Braddock redux. This time, the hospital in question is AGH Suburban Campus in Bellevue, that borough's largest employer with about 275 full-time staff, which joined forces with West Penn Hospital in the mid-1990s and now awaits a decision by West Penn Allegheny Heath System officials on its future.

"I think anything's possible," said Bellevue Mayor George Doscher, adding that his constituents "are feeling pretty strongly, if not adamantly, against anything changing down there."

That seems unlikely.

The West Penn Allegheny system is still struggling to right itself financially and has already undergone some consolidation and restructuring between its two largest hospitals, Allegheny General and West Penn.

Gregory Burfitt, president and CEO of West Penn and Allegheny General, said the organization expected to make a decision about the Bellevue campus by month's end.

"We're really going to look at everything," he said, though outright closure of AGH Suburban appears unlikely.

Among the options under discussion are reducing or eliminating inpatient services, which Mr. Burfitt said represents "4 percent of the activity on the campus." The hospital, licensed for 59 inpatient beds, has an average daily census "in the low 30s."

But eliminating inpatient care would have implications for the emergency department, he added, because state law requires that a full-functioning ER must have some inpatient services available. So another possibility is converting the emergency department into an urgent care center.

At the same time, Mr. Burfitt said officials were looking at expanding gynecological and obstetrical services other than delivering babies, as well as behavioral health services.

"We want to do what makes the most sense, and serves the most people, in the most appropriate way."

Not surprisingly, the uncertainty and anticipation has many in this community of 8,000 on edge, though not necessarily in opposition.

"I don't think the hospital is going away, but it will look different," said Bellevue Council President Kathy Coder. "I'm actually excited about it because I think it will be more vibrant."

Ms. Coder praised West Penn Allegheny officials, and specifically President and CEO Christopher Olivia, for meeting personally in recent weeks with Bellevue officials, going over the financials and inpatient data, and asking for their feedback.

"I understand the dilemma they're in. You have to look at the reality of what's going on with the economy and with health care," she said. "For the CEO of the health system to sit down with us for three hours, that says something."

To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website.

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