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UPMC East takes in first patients

| Tuesday, July 3, 2012,
Jasmine Goldband
Julie Ehman of Latrobe tends to her husband David Ehman, following his knee replacement, one of the first surgical procedures at UPMC East hospital in Monroeville on Monday. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

UPMC East President Mark Sevco left his suit and tie at home on Monday, the opening day of the Monroeville hospital he oversees.

Sevco donned black scrubs and running shoes for the $250 million hospital's official first day of operation, choosing comfort as he traveled around the facility making sure everything went smoothly.

The hospital opened at 5 a.m., and by early afternoon, doctors had treated 15 patients in its emergency department, performed about a dozen elective surgeries and admitted six patients to some of the 156 private rooms.

On the fifth floor, UPMC East's first patient was recovering from a knee-replacement surgery.

David Ehman, 47, of Latrobe moved up his procedure by two months by coming to UPMC East instead of UPMC Shadyside. Coming from Latrobe meant “it was a nice half-hour drive this morning,” Ehman said.

The hospital hopes to attract many elective-surgery patients from Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs, which will “take pressure off Shadyside,” Sevco said. The fifth floor primarily will house patients who undergo orthopedic procedures.

Though many people criticized UPMC for building a hospital about a mile away from Forbes Regional Hospital, owned by rival West Penn Allegheny Health System, officials have said UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals admitted up to 100 patients from the Monroeville area each day. Having a hospital east of Pittsburgh saves patients time and reduces crowding at those hospitals in Oakland and Shadyside.

Forbes, with more than twice the number of hospital beds, began preparing for the opening of UPMC East with a $20 million renovation. It plans to earn a designation as a Level II Trauma Center, which would enable it to treat more severe illnesses and injuries. The hospital hopes to earn the designation by 2013 or 2014, and in April announced it hired a medical director to lead the trauma center.

Bringing in patients through the emergency department will be essential to the success of UPMC East, Sevco said, because that is a primary portal for filling beds. Though ambulance drivers and dispatchers will direct patients to the closest hospital during emergencies, Sevco said sometimes the preferences of patients, doctors and ambulance services influence where a patient goes.

UPMC East initially expects about 18,000 patients a year in its emergency department, compared with about 50,000 a year at Forbes. Sevco said it could accommodate 35,000 to 40,000 a year, and “clearly we would expect to expand.”

Forbes can provide a wider range of services, such as labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care and in-patient psychiatric care, West Penn Allegheny spokesman Dan Laurent said.

UPMC East will transfer more complicated cases to larger UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh, Sevco said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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