Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Voice of the People, Delivered

Today it was both my honor and pleasure to join a group of nurses and community members in delivering the signatures of over 2,000 3,000 people to Altoona Regional Hospital.  The petitions regard concerns over the upcoming merger between UPMC and Altoona Regional.  I wrote last month about a city council meeting that I attended where I spoke about my concerns over the speed and secrecy of this merger.  Both WTAJ and the Altoona Mirror covered the delivery - before and after, respectively.

Certainly, it is too early to say whether the petitions will be fruitful, but to speak out against the way this merger is being carried out.  Still, the meeting was at least congenial.  Our group was put in a conference room while we waited to speak with Jerry Murray, the President/CEO of the hospital.

Unfortunately, we were told Mr. Murray was on a conference call and could not see us.  We were, however, seen by Dave Cuzzolina, the Director of Marketing and Communications.  Mr. Cuzzolina was very polite.  He received the petitions and took the time to speak with our group.

We voiced our concerns about what will happen to people insured by Highmark and regarding the costs at which UPMC sets their procedures.  There were two exchanges during the meeting that I found the most noteworthy.

First, when we talked about the high cost of UPMC procedures in comparison to surrounding hospital systems, Mr. Cuzzolina pointed out that UPMC's costs are actually lower and that they pay their nurses and doctors less than Altoona Regional Hospital.  He said this as though it was somehow an argument for UPMC taking over the hospital.  I was not the only person who found the statement a bizarre argument in UPMC's favor.

Secondly, Mr. Cuzzolina pointed out that the philosophy of the board, in looking into what health system to merge with, was that the Board of Directors represent the people.  Pastor Paul Johnson, one of our group, asked, if that was so then why won't the Board talk to the people they purport to represent?  It's something that we're all wondering and we're going to keep wondering it, as loudly as possible.

If you haven't yet signed the petition to ask the Altoona Regional Board of Directors to answer the community's questions you still can.  Go to where you can read about what we know so far and sign our petition.