UPMC McKeesport president reiterates hospital will remain open

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 4:06 a.m.

UPMC McKeesport president Mark Sevco said what many have been hoping to hear — “We are not closing.”

Since July 1, he has been at the helm of the McKeesport hospital, splitting his time between the local facility and the two-year-old UPMC East in Monroeville 10 miles away.

“I am thrilled to be here,” he said. “I am very passionate about community hospitals and there is such a great history at McKeesport with physicians and administrative leaders. I will use that as a platform to make this hospital evolve and thrive.”

Stressing the hospital's doors will remain open, Sevco said he is “excited about our future. There are some great things to come for UPMC McKeesport.”

Realizing the uncertainty that surrounds a leadership change, he has been meeting with directors, department heads and chairmen, and sent a letter to employees introducing himself and sharing why he believes the hospital has a bright future.

Planning for the future began prior to his arrival in McKeesport. The health system recently spent $22 million in capital construction, which includes a new emergency department and a $1.5 million orthopedic suite on 1 Mansfield. To determine the most efficient way to serve its patients, the hospital is embarking on a three- to five-year facility plan.

“We want to use the campus, which is very big, the most efficient way to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

Recruitment of the best primary care and specialty physicians will continue, he said, noting a breast surgical program is expected to be introduced that will involve Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. Specialists from that facility will be able to perform procedures at McKeesport so patients do not have to travel to Pittsburgh.

Recognizing the face of heath care is changing, Sevco said the local facility is not exempt. Citing a recent closure of a medical-surgical unit, the president said, “We are reducing the number of beds because we are seeing less inpatient services and more outpatient services.”

McKeesport had two 18-bed med-surg units that have not been fully occupied in recent months.

“Each unit had 50 percent occupancy. All we did was merge two units into one so we can more efficiently use our resources,” he said.

The president hopes to integrate programs and services at East and McKeesport.

“We want to work together to get world-class physicians to work at both hospitals. We are sister hospitals and we are learning from one another and want to enhance what each has to offer,” Sevco said.

Noting the continued commitment to the community, Sevco said it is “really important to connect with the community. We want to reach out to the community with education so they know what resources are available right here.”

One aspect that sets McKeesport apart from other hospitals in the health system is the longevity of staff — 1,000 associates and 535 medical staff.

“This staff has worked here for many years,” Sevco said, “and they are proud of what they do. It's a real family atmosphere here. More than 50 percent of the staff grew up here and were born in the hospital. When you have employees dedicated to working here, you create stability.”

City leaders met with the new president and are optimistic for the future of UPMC McKeesport.

“This hospital is an asset to the city,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “It's a collaborative effort to make McKeesport a better place to live and work. When I see Mark's enthusiasm and vision, I'm very excited and look forward to working with him.”

Not only is the hospital the largest employer in McKeesport, Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce President Maury Burgwin said it is one of the largest chamber sponsors.

“UPMC has always supported moving this region forward and encouraging businesses to come to McKeesport,” Burgwin said.

The mayor said the city is looking at opportunities to help beautify the area around the hospital, including paving Evans Street and Fifth Avenue.

“We want people to come here and feel safe,” Cherepko said. “UPMC McKeesport is a destination point so we need to build up that asset.”

Looking ahead, Sevco said, “We want to continue to provide world-class care in a community setting. We want to create a safe environment, that is very important to us. If a patient comes here and has a great first-time experience, they will come back and the hospital will thrive. This hospital has a reputation for pride and perseverance and that's the key to how well a hospital does.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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