UPMC deal healthy for our area

These are historic times for health care in our community.

We are very excited about becoming part of the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) system and bringing its world-class brand of health care to Altoona. UPMC is consistently ranked in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

UPMC shares our commitment to superior quality patient care and our vision for the future. Among many other things, this relationship means patients will be able to receive an even higher level of care in our region – for years to come.

When the community members on the boards of directors of Altoona Regional Health System and parent company Central Pennsylvania Health Services Corp. voted unanimously [Thursday] to join UPMC on July 1, they finished almost two years of intense work.

In those two years, our board and administration conducted an in-depth and thoughtful analysis of our options to help secure and grow our position as a leading health care provider and regional asset. Through this evaluation process, it became clear that not only was an affiliation with a major academic medical center our best option, but that UPMC was the best choice for Altoona Regional, our patients and the communities we serve.

UPMC operates more than 20 academic, community and specialty hospitals, including Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. It is committed to developing and delivering “Life Changing Medicine.”

Throughout the process of choosing a partner, our board members were unrelenting in their demand that any relationship must preserve existing services and enhance and expand the exceptional care our health system provides, while addressing the significant challenges and financial pressures in health care today.

Without doubt, UPMC’s medical resources and its commitment of $250 million to this area over the next 10 years will enable Altoona Regional – UPMC Altoona – to further enhance our quality of care and range of services, with new access to capital, outstanding technology, science, innovation and expertise.

Naturally, with change comes some concern. From feedback we’ve received, we know that one of your most important concerns is whether the insurance you have now will be accepted at the new UPMC Altoona. UPMC has said it will welcome negotiations and expects to reach an agreement with all insurers in this market, including Highmark.

Before closing, we want to quickly mention a few other significant advantages to this relationship:

  • Altoona Regional will become UPMC’s regional referral center, providing an opportunity for growth.
  • Local board governance will continue. Two-thirds of our board will be appointed by our current Altoona Regional board. One-third will be appointed by UPMC.
  • Along with the $250 million, UPMC has committed an additional $10 million to the hospital’s foundation.

Our decision, like all others, was driven by our mission to serve our families, friends and neighbors who will receive care at UPMC Altoona for generations to come.

We are eager to begin the next step in our journey as UPMC Altoona.

Rob Halbritter is Altoona Regional Health System’s chairman of the board of directors, and Jerry Murray is its president and CEO.