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Excela not thrilled over Allegheny Health Network plans to open Westmoreland outpatient center

| Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

Westmoreland County's Excela Health didn't take kindly Tuesday to an announcement that Allegheny Health Network plans to open an outpatient center in its territory.

“In a time when everyone is worried about health care costs, why would you duplicate services that are already available in Westmoreland County?” said Excela spokeswoman Robin Jennings. “We believe the facility is unnecessary and will only add costs to local employers and governmental payors.”

This summer, AHN plans to open a 23,000-square-foot outpatient center near Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield. The facility will offer primary care, neurosurgery, orthopedics, esophageal and lung disease treatment, cardiology, colon and rectal surgery and bariatric surgery.

In September, an endoscopy center for gastrointestinal procedures is scheduled to open within the facility.

“Our new services in Westmoreland County reflect the commitment AHN and Highmark Health have made to provide patients with convenient access to high-quality, cost-effective health care services,” Dr. Tony Farah, AHN's chief medical officer, said in a statement. “We believe keeping care in the community whenever possible is essential to offering a high-value, patient-centered model of care, so we are investing in programs that will allow more of our patients to get the right care in the right settings close to home.”

Jennings, however, questioned AHN's integrity.

“AHN isn't really interested in providing quality and convenience to patients where they live; it's an attempt to take patients and jobs to Allegheny County,” she said. “We are confident we will be able to compete based on our cost and quality and deliver value to our community.”

Dan Laurent, an AHN spokesman, praised Excela as a quality health care provider. Insurance provider Highmark Inc. has a contract with Excela through 2020. AHN and Highmark Inc. are owned and operated by Highmark Health.

“Residents of that community will benefit for having some additional choices,” he said.

The opening of the outpatient center continues AHN's expanded presence in the region. AHN Westmoreland OBGYN, an obstetrical practice that joined AHN in 2015, started seeing patients five days a week at a nearby Pellis Road facility last year.

Laurent said additional expansion is under consideration.

“Our focus has been to invest in programs and facilities with the goal of keeping care in the community,” he said. “Any strategy we implement in Westmoreland will be consistent with that philosophy.”

The new AHN facility, adjacent to Pool City on Nature Park Road, will provide physical and occupational therapy services, a lab for blood draws, a radiography room for X-ray imaging and an on-site mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) service, according to a news release.

Doctors will start seeing patients at the facility, to be called AHN Outpatient Center—Westmoreland, in early June.

The expansion into Westmoreland County occurs as Excela Health is on track to complete construction of its Excela Square at Latrobe ambulatory care center by November.

The three-story, 115,000-square-foot facility in Unity will offer patients a one-stop source for health care and is expected to help Excela recruit physicians and boost use of its nearby Latrobe Hospital.

The one-stop “medical mall” format for delivering outpatient care that Excela first introduced in North Huntingdon with Excela Square at Norwin provided the model for the Unity center and for $12 million in improvements the health care provider is making at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.

The Latrobe and Norwin centers are meant to allow better coordination of care by placing primary care physicians, specialists and lab and therapy services under one roof — a convenience for doctors and patients.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com. Staff writer Jeff Himler contributed to this report.

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