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UPMC, leaders celebrate acquisition of Washington Health System

UPMC merges with Washington Health System
UPMC merges with Washington Health System 02:54

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — A major transition for health care on Wednesday with UPMC merging with Washington Health System, creating UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene hospitals.   

Local leaders celebrated the merger and praised UPMC for saving the 127-year-old hospital from closing.

"We help people in Washington, Greene, Fayette counties, as far as West Virginia and the tri-state area. Without this hospital, we have problems," said JoJo Burgess, mayor of Washington.

Washington Hospital was at risk of closing, a challenge facing rural hospitals across the country.  According to the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, nearly 30 percent of all rural hospitals, 600 of them, are at risk of closing because of financial challenges.

With this merger, all 2,700 jobs at the two hospitals will remain, and UPMC has committed to at least the same pay. UPMC will also invest $300 million over the next 10 years to upgrade facilities, services and programs. 

"It's almost impossible for small rural hospitals to continue to invest at that level independently. So, being part of UPMC gives us resources, whether it be schools or new programs," said Leslie Davis, UPMC's president and CEO. 

The Service Employees International Union, which represents some employees at UPMC's Pittsburgh hospitals, vocally opposed the merger. However, SEIU employees in Washington supported it.

UPMC Washington Hospital President Brook Ward said, "That's an issue between UPMC and SEIU Pennsylvania that has nothing to do with us, and they chose to bring that fight to Washington, PA. It's unfortunate because this deal protected all jobs, including their union members."

Once the deal was approved by Pennsylvania's attorney general on May 30, the integration began and culminated in Wednesday's celebration.

Washington Health System was the largest employer in the community and a big part of the region's economic health. Mayor Burgess says not only is the deal saving hospitals and jobs, but it's also saving time.

"We brought quality health care from the big city to small-town living," Burgess said. "If you can't get excited about that, and now not have to ride through tunnels for two hours, and now you can take 15 minutes and be right here and get that quality care."

UPMC will also merge with the School of Nursing, which has been part of the community for 127 years. Recruiting nurses is a big challenge for all health systems right now, and UPMC is hopeful this will be one more step in growing that employee pool.

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