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$26M heart unit advances Allegheny General Hospital's goal of modernizing

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, 7:30 a.m.
Officials, including President and CEO of the Allegheny Health Network John Paul (right), cut the ribbon on a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients on Thursday Jan. 7, 2016, at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Officials, including President and CEO of the Allegheny Health Network John Paul (right), cut the ribbon on a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients on Thursday Jan. 7, 2016, at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
Allegheny General Hospital, part of Allegheny Health Network, in Pittsburgh's North Side.
Tribune-Review
Allegheny General Hospital, part of Allegheny Health Network, in Pittsburgh's North Side.
President and CEO of the Allegheny Health Network John Paul makes some remarks at the unveiling of a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients Thursday Jan. 7, 2016 at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
President and CEO of the Allegheny Health Network John Paul makes some remarks at the unveiling of a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients Thursday Jan. 7, 2016 at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
One of the high-tech rooms the Allegheny Health Network unveiled as a part of a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients Thursday Jan. 7, 2016 at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
One of the high-tech rooms the Allegheny Health Network unveiled as a part of a $26 million, 48-bed critical care unit for cardiovascular patients Thursday Jan. 7, 2016 at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.

Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Health, which have recently spent millions to improve regional outpatient care facilities, on Thursday announced a $26 million investment in an inpatient critical care unit for cardiovascular patients.

The project is part of a broader plan to modernize Allegheny General Hospital, flagship of the region's second-largest hospital network.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris packed into the hospital's 11th floor along with dozens of AGH employees as officials unveiled the 48-bed critical care unit.

“We are building the health care system of the future for this region,” said David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health. “And this is a perfect example of marrying technology, people and the right assets in the right places at the right time.”

Highmark, the region's dominant health insurer, has invested more than $1 billion in Allegheny Health Network, which it established after it rescued the former West Penn Allegheny Health System. The hospital system last year sought a $175 million cash infusion from Highmark. The money has been used for renovations at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville and West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield.

According to Holmberg, 96 percent of interactions patients have with health care systems occur outside hospital settings.

The remaining 4 percent “that happen in an acute setting like this truly are life-and-death situations,” he said.

The unit will begin admitting patients next week, officials said. It will provide treatment for people who require intensive care and around-the-clock monitoring for conditions such as acute myocardial infarction, acute heart failure and cardiac dysrhythmias.

Dr. Srinivas Murali, medical director of Allegheny Health's Cardiovascular Institute, said the investments will help the local medical community better combat heart disease — the leading cause of death and disability in the country.

“Our cardiac patients have multiple problems, and it is impossible to care for them adequately just with one physician or a physician nurse,” he said. “You always require a well-organized team that can address all the needs of these patients.

“A facility like this allows us to centralize that team-based care concept.”

The unit includes 24 critical care beds, as well as a 24-bed monitored step-down unit. A dozen rooms feature patient lifts to help staff safely move patients in and out of bed, officials said. In addition, 24 rooms feature high-tech booms to suspend equipment from the ceiling.

AGH recently opened a $6 million electrophysiology laboratory. The lab features a system called MediGuide to treat patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can increase the risk of heart-related complications.

“To know that the future is going to continue to be bright for this institution and for Allegheny Health Network is something we can all be proud of,” Fitzgerald said.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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