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Alle-Kiski Medical Center has no plans to close

| Sunday, March 21, 2010

Despite rumors that West Penn Allegheny Health System may close one of its hospitals, the CEO of Alle-Kiski Medical Center said it's not going anywhere.

In fact, Alle-Kiski Medical Center, which includes Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison and Citizens Ambulatory Care Center in New Kensington, will be completing the $11.4 million expansion of its emergency services department at AVH this year and plans to open three neighborhood clinics, CEO Ned Laubacher said.

"We're trying to show our confidence in the investments we've made in the past year," Laubacher said.

Concerns about the hospital's future were prompted by a March 8 town hall-style meeting where Dan Laurent, director of media relations, said nothing had been decided about hospital closings.

"We're exploring a variety of options with regards to meeting the health care needs of the community," Laurent said.

Kelly Sorice, vice president of communications for West Penn Allegheny, said Friday that there are no plans to close Alle-Kiski Medical Center.

"Alle-Kiski is well equipped to help provide care in the suburbs, which is where, statistically, patients would rather receive care than the city," she said.

Laubacher said the emergency services expansion will fill a need in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

The front lobby, driveway, registration desk and gift shop will be completed by the end of the month. The entire project will be completed in December.

"The emergency services department is the first of many investments," he said.

Another key move: Taking health care into the community, he said.

A clinic in Vandergrift will open in September and plans have been started to add two others in the area, Laubacher said. The exact locations will be announced.

The clinics will bring services such as diagnostics, imaging, labratory and cancer-related services to where patients already are meeting with their doctors, he said.

"It's intended to be a one-stop shop," Laubacher said.

That's important because the area's population is skewed toward the elderly, which has specific health needs, he said. Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, also is prevalent.

Laubacher's goal is to increase access to diagnostics and invest more in the main AVH campus to respond to the heavy demand for cardio and emergency services, he said.

For example, the New Kensington center had 17,000 patient visits last year, a sign of the need for that type of facility, he said.

"We want to not only invest in the hospital, but also in these primary care centers," he said.

But AVH also is getting some improvements: About $1 million of clinical equipment was purchased for the operating rooms, he said, and two new general surgeons have been hired.

"We want to bring our operating rooms up to the most current technology," he said.

West Penn Allegheny is working to end a long stretch of financial turmoil.

"We've had three quarters of consecutive improvements," Sorice said. "It gets better every quarter here."

The goal is to create a stable health system by improving how services are delivered to patients, she said.

One step is to reduce redundant services at different hospitals. For example, obstetrics was moved from Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood.

"We are more secure and we are getting stronger," Sorice said.

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