Excela rethinks, weighs building center in Greensburg

Joe Napsha
| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Excela Health is re-evaluating plans to build an outpatient care center in Hempfield and will consider locating the center near the hospital in Greensburg, while it proceeds with plans to build a similar facility off Route 30 in Unity, the health system's chief executive said Wednesday.

The Greensburg-based health system has not completed an evaluation of a potential site for an ambulatory care center behind Sam's Club along Route 30 in Hempfield, Robert Rogalski, chief executive officer of Excela Health, said after a speech at the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland annual meeting at St. Vincent College in Unity. Excela Health also has to consider the financial implications of buying the land and building a new facility, he said.

Excela will consider building an outpatient care center within a health care district that Greensburg wants to create around Westmoreland Hospital, Rogalski said. The health system owns several properties around the hospital that it uses for surface parking lots.

If Greensburg creates a health care district within a four-block area around the hospital, it could shorten the zoning process for health care-related development within that area, city officials have said. Residential properties could be changed more easily to a commercial designation.

City officials met with Excela Health executives last year when reports surfaced that the health care system might be looking to build an outpatient care center in neighboring Hempfield, said Susan Trout, city administrator.

“We encouraged them to give Greensburg another look and we asked them if we can offer them something attractive” as a site for an outpatient care center, Trout said after the luncheon.

Instead of building a new facility a few miles from its hospital in Greensburg, “why can't it be in combination with the hospital,” Trout said.

Excela Health already provides outpatient care services at the hospital on West Pittsburgh Street.

By concentrating outpatient care services at a single site, where physician offices are placed in the same building as diagnostic services, Excela Health is following a trend in health care. The health system has found that 60 percent of its revenue is derived from outpatient care, Rogalski said.

Excela already operates an outpatient care center, Excela Square at Norwin, which it acquired when it bought Mercy Jeannette Hospital in 2008. The outpatient care center in the Norwin Hills Shopping Center is Excela's “beta site” that is moving health care costs to outpatient settings, Rogalski said.

Excela is moving along with plans for a second ambulatory care center, this one at a site behind Arnold Palmer Motors on Route 30 in Unity. Earlier this month, the health system bought a 28.7-acre parcel for $1.65 million to build the 100,000-square-foot outpatient care center.

Unity supervisors this month approved Excela's acquisition of land for an access road from the proposed site to Route 30. Township officials have yet to approve the site plan for the project, which had drawn criticism from Latrobe officials who had wanted the center to be built in the city.

Excela has not yet determined if it will own the outpatient care center or lease it from a Minneapolis developer, Frauenshuh Health Care Real Estate Solutions, Rogalski said.

The move to create outpatient care centers to drive revenues comes at a time when hospitals are faced with a drop in admissions and are under pressure to contain costs as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. In the last six months of 2012, Excela joined most other hospitals in the region in posting an operating loss, Rogalski told more than 250 business, government and community leaders at the luncheon.

Excela Health continues to have beneficial relationships with the region's two largest health care players — University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark Inc., the health insurer that is buying hospital systems to become a health care provider, Rogalski said. Excela Health operates a cancer center in Unity in conjunction with UPMC.

Rogalski said he has received assurances from both UPMC and Highmark, that they do not want to build a hospital within Excela's market area in the county.

“We're trying to be Switzerland (remain neutral) and that's not easy,” Rogalski said. “We want to stay independent, a community-based hospital.”

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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