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Excela Health rallies its workers to protest Post Acute Medical's proposed 40-bed rehabilitation hospital

Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Gina Goss (left), a student nurse, and Erin Simone (middle), a RN at Excela Latrobe, sign letters on Thursday April 4, 2013, opposing Post Acute Medical's proposed plans to build an in-patient rehabilitation facility in Unity.

Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Excela Health is mobilizing its employees to pressure Unity officials to reject plans for a 40-bed rehabilitation hospital that would compete with Excela's operations in Latrobe and Unity.

“We've decided we're going to fight this no matter what the outcome,” said Jennifer Miele, vice president of marketing and public relations about the center proposed by Post Acute Medical LLC of Harrisburg. “We're going to go head-to-head with them.”

A letter-writing campaign is directed at the township board of supervisors and planning commission, Latrobe City Council, county commissioners and Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield.

Excela officials held “town hall” meetings on Thursday with employees at its facilities in Greensburg, Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant and North Huntingdon to gather signatures for the letters.

Excela points out in the letters that Post Acute Medical is a private company, “which means profits will leave Unity Township.” Another rehabilitation center in the township will duplicate Excela's services and drive up health care costs, including premiums that employers pay for coverage, the letters state.

The location of a competing facility will threaten the jobs of 70 Excela employees at a time when the hospital system is planning to build an outpatient center in Unity, according to officials.

“We pose no threat,” said Anthony Misitano, CEO of Post Acute Medical.

The company wants to buy a 6.9-acre site from developer Donald Paulone at the intersection of Route 30 and Grayhawk Drive to build the $20 million facility. Excela also has plans to build an outpatient center off Route 30.

The Unity Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to Post Acute Medical to build the facility. The board of supervisors must give final approval.

Ron Ott, senior vice president of community and government relations at Excela, questions the company's claim of a need for an additional 58 beds when Excela's 16-bed rehabilitation unit isn't always filled.

“We don't see it. We see our numbers struggling as it is,” Ott said. “Having another competitor in the market will impact us, obviously. We're very concerned that there's even a need in this area. Our desire is just to stop this.”

Dr. Stacy Gillespie, who directs the rehabilitation unit at Latrobe, questions whether Post Acute Medical will be able to attract referrals from area nursing homes because of the existing competition for patients.

But Misitano said his firm's studies indicate it is “absolutely clear the area could support additional rehab beds.”

Misitano said he recently met with Excela officials and offered the health system part-ownership in the proposed hospital.

“I'm really disappointed they would try to basically interfere with our potential project,” Misitano said. “I stress the word ‘interfere.' ”

Misitano said Unity officials have no legal reason to weigh the need for more beds as part of their decision whether to approve the building plan.

A number of outpatient rehab centers operate in Westmoreland County. In addition to private physical therapy groups, UPMC operates rehab centers in Belle Vernon, Delmont, Latrobe and Hempfield.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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