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Bellevue hospital to lose ER, beds

Allegheny General Hospital's Suburban campus in Bellevue will shut down its emergency department and stop admitting patients in 90 days, officials at parent West Penn Allegheny Health System said Thursday.

The 106-year-old facility will not completely close. It will continue to offer heavily used outpatient services including radiology, laboratory, dialysis and imaging services. An urgent care center will replace the emergency department to treat minor emergencies.

"I am very, very disappointed," said Linda Woshner, a longtime resident and Bellevue councilwoman. "It's not a hospital if you don't have an ER. They've been removing services for a number of years. This is a real concern."

Officials at financially troubled West Penn Allegheny would not say how many of Suburban's 275 full-time jobs will be affected. Spokeswoman Kelly Sorice said displaced workers will be offered jobs throughout the system or severance packages. The West Penn Allegheny network has about 350 job openings, Sorice said.

In justifying the change, officials said inpatient care constitutes about 4 percent of Suburban's volume. About 86 percent of the 20,000 emergency room visits each year are non-emergency cases that could be treated in an urgent care center.

"The vast majority of patients who visit Suburban's campus do so for outpatient care," said AGH president and CEO Gregory Burfitt.

West Penn Allegheny plans to turn over the hospital's 59 inpatient beds to LifeCare, a company that operates 41 long-term care beds at the Suburban site. The company applied for licensure to use nine of the 59 beds for long-term acute care patients. The company might seek approval to use the other 50 beds for skilled nursing care, said LifeCare CEO Rick Pletz.

Bellevue Mayor George Doscher said he was disheartened by the news but encouraged neighbors to attend a town hall meeting tonight. Although he attended some meetings with West Penn Allegheny, Doscher said citizens were left out of the decision-making process.

"They've made up their minds," he said. "It sounds like our hands are tied. Will this be the first step in closing the entire place down• I don't know. I don't have that kind of crystal ball."

West Penn Allegheny officials said the Suburban site will continue to house physicians' offices, a gastroenterology lab, physical therapy, outpatient medical oncology and outpatient pediatric services.

The hospital will maintain a service to transport emergency cases to Allegheny General's North Side campus. Surgeries previously performed at Suburban will be done at AGH.

Additional Information:

Town hall meeting

Who: Residents concerned about changes at Allegheny General Hospital's Suburban campus

When: 6:30 Friday

Where: Bellevue Elementary School, 435 Lincoln Ave.

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