Altoona Regional moving ahead with UPMC affiliation

The boards of directors of Altoona Regional Health System and parent company Central Pennsylvania Health Services Corp. announced Monday afternoon they have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to negotiate an affiliation with UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).

UPMC was ranked No. 10 in the U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals in 2012 and No. 1 in Pennsylvania, with 15 adult specialty areas ranked for excellence, an Altoona Regional release stated.

The letter of intent follows the announcement in November of Altoona Regional’s decision to pursue affiliation talks with UPMC and is the result of comprehensive discussions held since then.

According to the release, the signing means that Altoona Regional and UPMC leadeers have agreed to conditions of a prospective affiliation that would:

Secure and advance health care for Altoona and surrounding communities.

Enhance patient choice by strengthening and growing Altoona Regional’s tertiary care services for the region.

Support the entire Altoona Regional Health System with the financial resources necessary, in the face of health care reform, to continue providing advanced medical services for the region

A due diligence period will follow. The next and final step in the process would be the signing of a definitive agreement to affiliate, Altoona Regional’s release states.

“This is an exciting and significant next step toward a formal affiliation between two outstanding medical institutions,” said Jerry Murray, president and CEO of Altoona Regional.

“I am very pleased with the decision our community board members have made,” said Rob Halbritter, Altoona Regional board chairman said in the release. “UPMC shares our commitment to superior quality patient care and our vision for the future. An affiliation with UPMC will be extremely positive for Altoona Regional, our patients, and the entire region.”

“Altoona Regional and UPMC have had a longstanding and cooperative relationship,” said Elizabeth B. Concordia, executive vice president, UPMC, and president, Hospital and Community Services Division. “UPMC is committed to the continued growth and elevation of services at Altoona Regional Health System and to enhancing Altoona Regional’s established role as the region’s leading tertiary care provider.”

For more than a year, Altoona Regional’s Board of Directors has been exploring an affiliation with a larger system that would offer opportunities to enhance and expand the care the health system provides, while addressing the significant challenges and financial pressures in health care today.

During this process, several potential partners shared with the boards their visions of the future of health care in Pennsylvania, the release states.

”UPMC was chosen because we are only interested in a relationship that will enable Altoona Regional to further enhance its quality of care and breadth of medical services,” Murray said in the release, “while gaining new access to capital and outstanding technology, science, innovation and expertise.”