Highmark, West Penn Allegheny Announce Details of West Penn Hospital Revitalization Plan

Updated on November 16, 2011

Emergency Department to Reopen in Early 2012
300+ Private Patient Rooms, Renovated Medical/Surgical Units Among Other Facility Upgrades In Works

Moving forward with a pledge to restore and enhance essential healthcare services at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Bloomfield, officials of Highmark Inc., and the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) today shared details of those plans with hospital employees and community leaders.

Central to the West Penn Hospital revitalization project, which will take place in three phases over the next six months, will be the reopening of the hospital’s emergency department in early 2012.   The department will be completely renovated and technologically advanced, including the addition of a fast track patient triage system.  Plans are also on the table to increase the department’s size from its current bed count of 24 and to incorporate a new observation unit into the program to further expedite and improve patient care.

Complimenting the emergency department opening will be an expansion of the hospital’s overall capacity to 300-350 private patient rooms with monitoring capabilities, extensive renovations to nurse stations in the hospital’s medical, surgical and intensive care units and remodeling of all common areas in the facility, including lobbies and waiting rooms.

According to Highmark President Kenneth Melani, MD, the revitalization of West Penn Hospital is a critical step towards solidifying the future of the West Penn Allegheny Health System and a move that is consistent with Highmark’s mission and history of investments that enhance the health and wellbeing of the western Pennsylvania community.

On November 1, Highmark and WPAHS announced the reaching of a definitive affiliation agreement between the two organizations that, pending regulatory approvals, will considerably strengthen the health system and position it as the center piece of a new and innovative integrated healthcare delivery system for the region.  Among the consequences of West Penn Allegheny’s recent financial difficulties has been a significant downsizing and the threatened closure of West Penn Hospital.

“We want the community to know that we are taking the necessary steps to assure the continued viability of West Penn Hospital and the entire West Penn Allegheny Health System.  From Highmark’s perspective, it’s critically important that we preserve these valuable community institutions,” Dr. Melani said.

“Our affiliation agreement with West Penn Allegheny represents a milestone for consumers who want the security of health care choices when selecting a hospital or a doctor; for employers who are seeking high-quality, more affordable health care for their employees; and for local communities – like Bloomfield – that are striving to maintain their community hospital as an economic engine and source of employment.”

The expanded services at West Penn Hospital are expected to initially bring nearly 200 new jobs to the facility, with significant additional employment opportunities anticipated as patient volumes grow and additional programs are introduced.   Close to 600 prospective employees participated in a job fair at the hospital last week and a second job fair will take place on December 7.

Keith Ghezzi, MD, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of WPAHS, said the emergency department reopening and other significant improvements planned for West Penn Hospital reflects a commitment by Highmark and West Penn Allegheny to ensuring that the hospital returns to its roots as a cherished and vital healthcare resource for the people of Bloomfield, its surrounding neighborhoods and the region at large.

“For more than a century, West Penn Hospital has been a bedrock of this community as a source of economic vitality, employment and of course, outstanding healthcare services.   Our goal is to reestablish an expanded  scope of services at West Penn that addresses the needs of the community and positions the hospital appropriately for the pivotal role it will play in the success of our health system,” Dr. Ghezzi said.

Phase two of the West Penn Hospital revitalization project will involve enhancements to the hospital’s highly regarded women and infants program, including expansion and renovation of its labor and delivery facilities and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and increased gynecologic surgical capabilities.  More than 3,000 babies are delivered each year at West Penn and the hospital has a long history of innovation in the treatment of gynecologic disease.

The hospital also plans to renovate and reorganize its six story Mellon Pavilion to accommodate more physician practices and better coordinate patient care services.  The plan includes construction of a new entrance to the Pavilion that will feature a governor’s driveway off of Liberty Avenue to make patient visits and transports more convenient.

All renovation projects at the hospital are being designed and constructed by Astorino, one of the country’s leading healthcare architectural design firms.

Other existing services at West Penn that are expected to also grow as the hospital transitions back into a full service community hospital include its nationally recognized bone marrow transplantation program, Institute for Pain Medicine, Sleep Disorders Center, radiation oncology program, breast diagnostic program, pelvic floor disease center, Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, Lupus Center of Excellence, Joslin Center for Diabetes, in-patient rehabilitation services, general outpatient surgery, and various diagnostic testing  services, such as laboratory medicine and radiology.

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