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UPMC to run hospital on island of Cyprus

| Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

The next overseas project for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will be a hospital on a beachside property in Paphos, a tourist town on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, officials will announce today.

The 100-bed hospital will be part of a $1.9 billion complex designed by the Leptos Group, one of the biggest developers in Cyprus. The project will include luxury housing, a 100-room hotel, a university, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

UPMC will manage the $120 million hospital but will not invest any money in its construction, said Chuck Bogosta, president of UPMC's International and Commercial Services division. UPMC will manage an existing 36-bed hospital in Paphos that it expects to convert into a cancer center akin to its facilities in Ireland.

"This really rounds out and takes our global health enterprise to a very new level, particularly from a geographic perspective," Bogosta said in a phone interview from Qatar, where UPMC provides emergency medical services. "If you know anything about Cyprus, it's a very attractive place to do something like this. People from the Middle East and Europe are very comfortable traveling to Cyprus."

David Dawley, a professor at the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University, said it makes sense for UPMC to expand abroad.

"UPMC probably feels that their efforts have saturated the domestic market," Dawley said. "They are making the next logical step in growing their health care system."

Bogosta said UPMC's international ventures are beneficial to Western Pennsylvania because their profits come back to the area.

"We want to continue doing things outside Western Pennsylvania that will ultimately bring back operating margin to help support our academic and health care mission," he said.

The hospital will offer services similar to UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall and is expected to include specialists in traditional medical areas such as oncology, cardiology, orthopedics, minimally invasive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Over time, UPMC expects to create an organ transplantation program.

About 500 workers will be hired, most of them from Cyprus, which has several private hospitals and clinics but no comprehensive acute care general hospital. Those facilities do not offer cancer services such as radiotherapy, something that UPMC intends to establish quickly following a model it successfully used in Dublin and Waterford.

In addition to locals, the bulk of expected patients will be seasonal tourists who often visit the island for six months at a time from places such as the United Kingdom, Bogosta said.

"This would be the equivalent of New Yorkers going to Florida for the winter," Bogosta said.

One of the hospital's goals is "to attract medical tourism at a very high level," he said, referring to another target group -- patients traveling specifically to the hospital from Europe and the Middle East, which are projected to bring between 10 and 20 percent of the business.

The 250-acre property is located on the southwest coast of Cyprus along the Mediterranean. The project is called Neapolis and is located right on the beach, with the hospital on the far northern end of the property.

"It's a unique project because it's like a city within a city," said Pantelis Solomis, director of the Leptos Group. "It's about 10 minutes from the international airport, which is excellent for medical tourists."

Cyprus attracts about 3 million tourists a year, including about 1 million to Paphos, a popular vacation spot, Solomis said.

The hospital will be built during the first of four phases that will stretch over the next three to four years. Groundbreaking is expected to take place by year's end. The complex is expected to include a state-of-the-art business center where several major companies are expected to relocate from Europe and the Middle East, Solomis said.

There will be a senior living facility on the property whose information technology infrastructure will be linked to the hospital, Bogosta said. The entire Neapolis project is expected to employ abut 8,000 workers.

The UPMC-Cyprus partnership has been in the works for about two years. The idea was first brought up by two UPMC doctors from Cyprus, Athan Georgiades and Michael Boyiadzis. Both played a key role in the planning of the hospital.

The management arrangement in Cyprus will be similar to one in Sicily, where UPMC operates a hospital that specializes in organ transplantation and cardiothoracic surgery.

The hospital will be open to people with both public and private insurance. Medical services in Cyprus are covered by government-provided insurance but there is a private insurance system under development, Bogosta said.

In addition to managing the hospital, UPMC will provide staff training and help with buying equipment and implementing the hospital's information system.

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