If you read the June 22 article in the Altoona Mirror by Bill Kibler titled "Early opinion positive," readers may have the impression that I (or our union) have had a change of heart.
That is most certainly not the case.
Our union made the decision not to outright oppose a merger. We understand the challenges health systems face in today's changing health care marketplace.
However, Altoona Regional Health System nurses are compelled to raise concerns about UPMC's business practices as patient advocates and as healthcare consumers like you. Many members of the community have had questions. Over 3,000 people signed a petition asking if UPMC is the right choice for our health system and think there has been a serious lack of community input in making this very important decision.
The answers to our questions are more important now than ever because the UPMC Board of Directors has voted not to extend its contract with Highmark. What does that mean for the thousands of Highmark subscribers in Blair County?
It's also important to remember, despite what the hospital and UPMC want us to believe (and here, Kibler got it right in the front page article "ARHS votes to join UPMC") that this is not a done deal until the Attorney General reviews and approves it. We received much appreciation and support from the public as we collected signatures for our petition. We are asking the hard questions to make certain that UPMC will provide affordable quality healthcare for all our community regardless of what insurance card one carries.
ARHS Chapter President
SEIU Healthcare PA
(Editor's note:?Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Tuesday that she won't object to the merger, but she will require UPMC to work with Highmark to allow Highmark subscribers access to the hospital.)