Wednesday, May 26, 2010By Steve Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's near-$7 million infusion to prop up an Irish hospital has raised the ire of some local residents still fuming about the giant health system's decision to close its hospital in Braddock.
The Irish Independent newspaper recently reported that majority owner UPMC provided the money to Beacon Hospital in Dublin "as a buffer to cumulative losses racked up by the end of last June."
Meanwhile, UPMC had paid a near-$95 million subsidy to the hospital last year to pay off creditors, a move that made it a 66 percent owner of the facility, now called UPMC Beacon.
With that kind of funding, "The Braddock hospital could have stayed open for 10 years and, who knows, the whole region could have turned around in 10 years," said Tony Buba, chairman of the Save Our Community Hospitals citizens group organized after the health system announced plans to close UPMC Braddock.
The health system has agreed to pay $5 million for planned demolition of the Braddock facility, which will be replaced by multi-use buildings.
UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said the two hospitals face very different circumstances. The Irish facility is at or above capacity and there are plans for expansion, she said.
"Braddock, as we have explained, was an underutilized facility. The people in Braddock were already choosing other hospitals. And we have hospitals nearby that are offering services that we think will meet the needs of the community," she said.
Mr. Buba takes issue with that last point.
"People are spending so much time going out to [UPMC McKeesport] now and, if you don't have a car, the bus travel is very difficult," he said.
The Irish Independent article began circulating in Braddock this week.
Coming on the heels of tax documents for the health system that listed nearly 20 executives and physicians earning million dollar salaries, blood relatives on the payroll and business deals with board members, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
The article reported that UPMC's Ireland operation lost about $7 million in fiscal 2009. It said UPMC also has agreed to provide about $12 million more to expand Beacon.
Charles Bogosta, president of UPMC's International and Commercial Services Division, said since UPMC took majority control of the Irish hospital, it has been doing much better financially and should make a profit this year.
"Beacon will turn around," he said. "Beacon really had only been under our control since last June. We're a little behind on our projections on cash flow because insurance companies reduced their rates. So, for what's under our control, we're very proud of how we're doing there."
Mr. Buba, a Braddock Hills resident, said the steering committee for Save Our Community Hospitals has decided to meet Thursday to discuss the latest disclosures about UPMC finances.
"We hadn't planned to have any [demonstrations] in the next couple of weeks, but maybe that will change," he said. "We know they're not going to reopen the hospital, but why can't this money be used to pay for emergency care in Braddock?"