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Excela opens occupational health center in North Huntingdon

| Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, 8:15 p.m.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Scott D. Leslie, MD, MPH (right) demonstrates a hearing test with Medical Assistant Monica Olivera in Excela Square at Norwin which has opened an Occupational Medicine Program. The program is called Excela Health WORKS and is for businesses to manage workplace injuries and wellness.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Scott D. Leslie, MD, MPH (left) speaks with Medical Assistant Monica Olivera, in an exam room in Excela Square at Norwin which has opened an Occupational Medicine Program. The program is called Excela Health WORKS and is for businesses to manage workplace injuries and wellness.

Excela Health has opened an occupational medicine program at its Norwin Hills outpatient center that is designed to help businesses manage employee wellness, workplace injuries and worker's compensation cases.

“It's a little bit of medicine that is broad and varied. Occupational medicine is an interesting amalgam of many different fields,” said Dr. Scott Leslie, medical director for Excela Health Works.

The occupational medicine program will operate in what had been a physician's office at Excela Square at Norwin in North Huntingdon, which the health system opened in 2013. The program will provide:

• Testing, drug screening and physicals for candidates seeking employment.

• Treatment of those injured in the job or who are on workers' compensation.• Workplace wellness programs.

“It's all about providing a safe and healthy workplace,” said Kenneth Diddle, an occupational medicine physician assistant for 10 years.

Greensburg-based Excela Health is offering the program in conjunction with the Washington Health System, where Leslie has worked for seven years. He will split his time in the occupational medicine program between Excela Square and Washington Health.

Excela Health operated its own program until about four years ago, said Laurie English, senior vice president and chief human resources officer. The health system has been planning to restart an occupational medicine program for a year, she said.“We wanted to re-establish the program, to expand it to employers in the (health system's) service area,” English said.

This program will give employers the option of sending injured workers to Excela Health Works rather than hospital emergency rooms, saving patients potentially long waits in the ER, English said. English isn't certain how many patients the program will treat.

Though manufacturing has declined in Western Pennsylvania over the past 25 years, there's still a need for occupational medicine programs, Diddle said.

“There is a lot of interest in occupational medicine from employers, the community, and hospitals as employers,” said Patricia Raffaele, a spokeswoman for the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania, the Warrendale-based trade association representing a group of hospitals and long-term care facilities in a 30-county region.

“They have heard from employers and there is enough of a need to add the program,” Raffaele said.

While quite a few health systems in Western Pennsylvania have occupational medicine programs, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Allegheny Health Network, community hospitals and regional hospitals may be looking at Excela Health's program to see how it is structured, Raffaele said.

“What Excela is doing is a little bit advanced. They are listening to the employer community, and they are developing and changing services to meet the need. I do think other places are looking at it as a model,” Raffaele said.

Washington Health System has operated its occupational medicine program since 1984 and saw about 12,800 patients in the 2015 fiscal year, said Gary Weinstein, president and chief executive officer.

Washington established its program in response to requests from employers, mainly in the industrial and mining sectors, who wanted an alternative to sending injured workers to hospital emergency departments for acute treatment, Weinstein said in an email. In the occupational medicine program, workers can be actively managed by a physician with expertise in occupational medicine and with prompt communication with both the worker and employer, Weinstein stated.

Operating such a program, which provides walk-in flexibility for most services and acute trauma care, has “transformed us into a modern one-stop shop for all things occupational medicine,” Weinstein said.

Excela Health might offer a similar occupational medicine program at the outpatient center it plans to build off Route 30 in Unity next year, English said.

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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