UPMC outpatient center does 'it all,' manager says

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

Visiting the reopened UPMC Natrona Heights Outpatient Center in Harrison can do a heart good, literally.

Testing for heart problems now is part of what the center in the Heights Plaza Shopping Center offers.

Area residents visiting the facility for the first time Wednesday during an open house, learned all about that.

“We do it all, the echocardiogram, stress tests, the Doppler tests and EKGs,” said Pam Newell, a UPMC practice manager who manages the Heights Plaza facility.

She said that's new service that UPMC officials moved from the Burtner Road facility to the outpatient center, since it was forced to close following a fire that caused extensive damage to the Heights Plaza on Dec. 17, 2012. The center was renovated during 2013 and reopened in January.

“They did a wonderful job putting us back together again,” said Michele Rubio of Butler, another UPMC practice manager.

Open house visitors were able to speak to UPMC employees such as Jennifer Schrock, a cardio lab technologist who splits time between the outpatient center and UPMC St. Margaret hospital near Aspinwall.

Standing just inside a room containing an imaging device, she explained how the stress tests work. She said patients either work out on a treadmill for a certain period of time to raise their heart rate or, if they are unable to do that, they're injected with a drug that can do that.

“This is where they take the pictures of the patient's heart to see if there are any blockages,” Schrock said, motioning toward the equipment.

She said the Doppler test is an ultra sound exam to check blood flow through the body for clots and the echo exam is an ultrasound specifically for the heart.

According to Schrock, offering the cardiac tests at the outpatient center was done with convenience of patients in mind. She said it eliminates an additional 15 mile drive to St. Margaret's and having to pay for parking there while still receiving the same services as the hospital provides.

Kathy Dreyer of Kittanning can relate to that.

“I think it's very nice,” she said of the center. “I came in and did a Doppler, and it was pretty quick. Now, I don't know if it will stay that way or not.”

As for the convenience, Dreyer said, “Instead of going to St. Margaret's? Oh yeah.”

Outside a room labeled “dexa-scans” Rubio said, “They do the dexa-scans here for osteoporosis. It shows whether a patient is losing bone density.”

She said it's a common problem associated with aging.

Prospective patients look for other imaging services such as X-rays or MRI scans won't find them at the outpatient center, Newell said.

She said they will remain at the UPMC facility less than a mile away along Burtner Road, just off Exit 15 of Route 28.

She said the cardiac testing and densa-scans are about all the outpatient center has room to accommodate.

In addition to those diagnostic tests, which are separated into office suites or pods, Newell said there are exam rooms and offices used by UPMC primary care physicians. such as those who are part of Valley Family Medicine, and specialists on a time-share basis.

Altogether, there are about seven to 10 physician practices who hold office hours at the center on certain days each week.

“We are trying to make it as convenient for the patients to get as much done in one place as possible,” Newell said.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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