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UPMC South Side emergency room makes move across river to Mercy

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By Michael Hasch
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A part of Pittsburgh faded into history Tuesday as the emergency room at UPMC South Side hospital closed, diverting all patients across the river to UPMC Mercy.

City paramedics reported "significant delays" outside UPMC Mercy's emergency room, but union officials said they did not know if that was because of an influx of patients from the South Side.

Officials at UPMC Mercy said it was just a typical summer day in the emergency room.

The South Side facility, which opened its doors in 1889, lost its hospital designation at 6 a.m. when the emergency department closed.

The facility was scheduled to reopen this morning as UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, said UPMC Mercy spokeswoman Linda Ross. The Urgent Care Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to treat minor emergencies and illnesses.

UPMC, which purchased what was then known as South Side Hospital in 1996, announced last June that the facility would close and that services would be transferred to UPMC Mercy.

"We have consistently communicated information about this transition through numerous meetings with community residents, businesses and government officials; paid ads in the local media; a community newsletter; and a direct mail piece to the four primary ZIP codes served by UPMC South Side," Ross said.

The transition started in early January when UPMC South Side began transferring patients to UPMC Mercy, she said.

Tony Weinmann, president of the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local 1, said union members told him "there were significant delays outside (Mercy's) emergency room" yesterday.

"Crews were lined up to get in. It delayed units from getting back into service. It was not just us. It affects private ambulance services and paramedics from other communities.

"I'm not sure if the delay was because of the South Side closing. We'll have to keep an eye on it in the next few days to see what happens," Weinmann said.

Ross said she was outside the hospital on at least two occasions and saw a few ambulances but no delays.

"It was business as usual today in the UPMC Mercy Emergency Department. We were no busier today than we've been for approximately the past month," she said.

"As you may recall, UPMC Mercy is a Level I Regional Resource Trauma Center, and summer typically is 'trauma season.' We did have several traumas (Tuesday)."

Ross said no figures were available on the number of patients treated in the emergency room yesterday and how that compares to a typical summer day.

Ross said UPMC has spent the past year preparing for the influx of patients from the South Side by hiring additional staff and improving parking areas.

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