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Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Hospital officials explain changes at Bellevue facility

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

By Jonathan Barnes


West Penn Allegheny Health System officials met with more than 100 North Boroughs residents Friday night to discuss the decision by the company to close Allegheny General Hospital Suburban Campus' emergency room and lease all of its 100 inpatient beds to LifeCare by August. LifeCare is a long-term acute care facility that already is leasing and occupying 30 beds at the Bellevue hospital.


The meeting happened after an announcement that morning that the hospital would close.


Because the facility will not offer inpatient care, the law prevents it from operating an emergency room, explained Dawn Gideon, chief of hospital operations for West Penn Allegheny. She gave a presentation on the reasons for the change and said many emergency room services would be available through the hospital's urgent care service, which will operate daily and be open 12 hours a day after the emergency room closes.


Ms. Gideon took questions from residents, some of whom asked why they could not voice their opinions about the move before a decision was made.


"The timing is unfortunate," Ms. Gideon said.


She declined to cite LifeCare's contract terms, saying the owner of the company was on vacation and would sign the contract in the next few weeks. She wouldn't specify how long LifeCare would lease the property.


Ms. Gideon said a decline in population in the area resulted in fewer patients requiring hospitalization. The hospital has an average of 28 patients in its beds each day, she said, and the need to better serve the greater Pittsburgh area also played into the decision to close Suburban's emergency room. Other financial considerations also were considered.


"We're not getting paid what it costs us to provide services," Ms. Gideon said.


She said that in March, hospital administration began a process it called "the listening tour," meeting with about 80 groups and individuals from the North Boroughs and the North Side about the potential change in the hospital's status. Nearly 80 percent of the patients currently served by the hospital will be able to continue to be served by it after the change, Ms. Gideon said.


Most of the services offered by the hospital will continue, and a new gynecology care service will be added, Ms. Gideon said. Outpatient surgery will be discontinued; chemotherapy will continue. Physical therapy services and dialysis also will remain at the hospital.


The change in status will put the hospital on the tax rolls for the first time. The facility is valued at $31 million.


Some residents argued that the hospital system was abandoning Bellevue hospital. Ms. Gideon disagreed. "We're not abandoning -- we're changing," she said. "We're hoping for a long-term contract [with Life-Care]."


The question of what could happen to Suburban after Life-Care's lease expires was not addressed.


"I'd like to see your five-year-plan," said Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd to Ms. Gideon.


Rich Furis, a Bellevue resident, thanked the hospital administrators for taking the attendees through the process of how the decision on Suburban was made.


"Any of us [who] work for a living know that you have to reinvent yourself," Mr. Furis said.


Gay Good, a former employee of West Penn Hospital, was unconvinced by the administrators' arguments. "This sounds like the first salvo of the dismantling of West Penn," she said.


Virginia Maranda stepped up to the microphone: "I want to cry, but I'm trying not to," she said. "My first job out of Bellevue High School was in the records department at Suburban General [Hospital]."

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