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Allegheny Health Network selected as U.S. Olympic regional medical center

About Luis Fábregas
Picture Luis Fábregas 412-320-7998
Medical Editor
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Luis Fábregas is an award-winning reporter who specializes in medical and healthcare issues as a member of the Tribune-Review’s investigations team.

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By Luis Fábregas

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 7:48 a.m.

Olympic athletes and hopefuls from the region could receive medical care at Allegheny Health Network as part of a partnership between the region's second largest hospital network and the U.S. Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday.

The designation of Allegheny Health as one of six U.S. Olympic regional medical centers drew immediate criticism from rival UPMC, whose officials said at least nine local Olympic athletes receive care at UPMC's Center for Sports Medicine in the South Side.

Allegheny Health, which includes flagship Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side, estimated that roughly 150 athletes could get care in areas such as sports medicine, orthopedics, cardiovascular care and physical therapy.

“It's a tremendous honor for our sports medicine program to be asked to join this impressive network,” said Dr. Patrick DeMeo, chairman of Allegheny Health's department of orthopedic surgery.

UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko said the health giant often is approached for similar sponsorships but declines them because they are “financially wasteful.”

“These types of sponsorships are expensive and are simply a good money generator for the USOC, as well as a good PR tactic for the sponsor,” Manko said.

She said elite and professional athletes typically have relationships with their own physicians and would not seek care based on a sponsorship.

Jan Jennings, president of Downtown consulting firm American Healthcare Solutions, called the partnership a good move for Allegheny Health Network.

“It's very prestigious,” he said. “If UPMC were doing it, Allegheny would have something negative to say. They're like two children in a sandbox.”

Dr. Ed Snell, director of primary care sports medicine for Allegheny Health, said athletes would be sent to Allegheny Health through the U.S. Olympic Committee based on needs and severity of injuries.

“We're capable of handling any injury or medical problem,” Snell said.

The 150 or so local athletes who train in the region include summer and winter sports. Allegheny Health officials did not say where the athletes train.

“That number includes Olympic hopefuls in the pipeline for future Games,” said Vanessa Virbitsky, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Allegheny Health Network officials would not disclose financial terms of the deal.

“It's a shame UPMC feels the need to diminish the (Olympic Committee's) efforts to better meet the health care needs of athletes as they train and prepare to represent our country in Olympic competition,” said Allegheny Health Network spokesman Dan Laurent.

The U.S. Olympic Committee in August devised a National Medical Network to provide medical care to elite athletes. The six-hospital network includes facilities in New York and Colorado.

Health insurer Highmark, which owns the seven-hospital Allegheny Health Network, is the “official health insurer” of Team USA.

Luis Fábregas is Trib Total Media's medical editor. Reach him at lfabregas@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


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