UPMC, a History of Promises Kept

By: Dr. Beth Piccione

Previously published as an op-ed in the Washington Observer-Reporter

Recently, I was honored to speak at a public hearing held by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General to discuss the proposed affiliation between Washington Health System (WHS) and UPMC.

To anyone who was at the event, it was clear there is strong and overwhelming support for this important partnership across the Washington and Greene County communities. Some of course expressed questions, which are understandable.

As a physician, hospital administrator and resident of a tight knit community, I appreciate how immense change can feel for something as essential and personal as health care. Taking care of ourselves and those we love most demands our deepest consideration.

I am a New Castle-area native and have observed many similarities between what we experienced in my hometown as the health care landscape continues to change. Like WHS, it was 10 years ago that Jameson Health System could no longer financially, sustainably and independently support the vital, local services they were providing, especially within the maternity and cardiology departments.

Unable to sustain crucial community-based care, in 2014 Jameson started looking for a partner to maintain personal and local health care across Lawrence County. UPMC emerged as the partner of choice to ensure Jameson Hospital was positioned to effectively serve our communities’ local health care needs well into the future.

For many years, I was an independent cardiologist serving my New Castle community. I would round several times a day at Jameson Hospital to care for my patients. In 2011, I joined UPMC to gain new opportunities to specialize in women’s heart health, a particular passion of mine. It remained a priority for all that I steadily serve my New Castle community. I continued to round daily at Jameson Hospital, and I began to learn more about UPMC’s expertise — particularly its focus on highly-specialized, local care.

I witnessed how UPMC’s promised investments in patient care were immediately prioritized and put into action. I watched our employees and medical staff members breath a sigh of relief, reassured about their own careers and the continuation of needed services to support our patients. I experienced how our community became the beneficiary of a continuous elevation of exceptional health care with access close to home.

It is this legacy that makes the partnership between WHS and UPMC so reassuring, and so exciting.

These types of transitions are complex, and we understand that many have good questions that deserve good answers.

During the search for a partner at Jameson Hospital, leadership looked at the ongoing successes of UPMC Hamot in Erie. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how far the once-struggling Hamot Medical Center has come.

Similar to the proposed WHS affiliation, UPMC promised to invest $300 million in UPMC Hamot over a ten-year period. In the 13 years since that promise was made, they’ve far exceeded all expectations.

To date there has been more than $420 million invested in UPMC Hamot — investment that has brought specialized units and new services into the Erie region, including UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The result for communities? High-quality health care has stayed local along with the creation of good-paying jobs.

UPMC invests in communities to preserve what works. And we inject critical investments to further enhance them — elevating care capabilities to meet the precise needs of the community.

Today, at UPMC Jameson, our ICU has been fully renovated and transformed. We’re now able to care locally for those most vulnerable and with the highest critical care needs. We are caring for patients who, seven years ago, would have been forced to transfer to another facility.

This progress in the quality of local care we provide is also reflected in the increased demand for our services. Since 2016, the number of local residents in Lawrence County leaving for care has fallen by nearly 13%. The number of patients seeking UPMC Jameson’s enhanced health care offerings has increased 406% over the same period.

Breathing new life into communities, protecting local services, engaging new talent, and enhancing the care that works is what UPMC does. It is what they have done for Lawrence Country and what they will do in Washington and Greene counties.

In UPMC, WHS has the right partner at the right time that will ensure that, together, they can continue to deliver exceptional local health care.

Beth Piccione, M.D., is a cardiologist and president of UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon.