UPMC Northwest project expanding
The Derrick, 5/4/02 By JUDITH O. ETZEL
A special thanks goes out to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted

The new UPMC Northwest hospital project in Cranberry Township just got bigger.

The Pittsburgh-based UPMC Health System, parent of Northwest, has approved the construction of a $2.5 million behavioral health unit to be built along side the new $65 million hospital on a 144-acre parcel off Route 257.

Right up there with the new building in terms of expansion is a direct affiliation with Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, a UPMC-owned and nationally recognized behavioral health organization. Western Psychiatric is located in Pittsburgh.

Early on in the three-year procedure that culminated with the UPMC and Northwest merger in December, officials from both health organizations were unsure where the psychiatric and behavioral science units would be located. They are now functioning in the Rowe Building adjacent to the Oil City hospital and in a nearby residential rehabilitation facility known as Harbor House.

Those services were not pegged to remain in the Rowe structure or go to the new hospital. As of January, no decision as to that department's location had been finalized.

In what was reportedly a "bidding war" among an undisclosed number of western Pennsylvania hospitals for the new psychiatric unit, UPMC Northwest was the successful bidder.

The new 12,000-square-foot, one-story behavioral health unit will be designed and constructed by HBE Inc. of St. Louis, the same firm that designed and is building the new hospital. No decision has been made as to whether the building will be free-standing or a wing of the hospital.

It will provide inpatient psychiatric services to geriatric, adult and adolescent patients. Outpatient services, too, will be offered at the new building. UPMC Northwest and Western Psychiatric are recruiting psychiatric physicians to permanently locate in Venango County.

Ray Feroz, program manager of behavioral health at Northwest for the past 15 years, said the addition of the psychiatric unit to the hospital project and the ability to work with Western Psychiatric staff will significantly enhance health services in Venango County.

"We serve 14 years and above now, plus some geriatric and adolescents, and they are all in one unit. The new facility will allow us to provide specific areas of treatment for young, adult and geriatric patients so they are not all mixed. You don't want them mixed. Using an age specific treatment is state of the art and much preferred," Feroz said.

About 20 Northwest employees staff the behavioral science unit at Rowe and that number should grow once the services are expanded at the new facility, Feroz said.

The new UPMC Northwest psychiatric health center is poised to "be one of the best behavioral health facilities in the area," said Diane Holder, president of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

The plan to build a psychiatric center at the Cranberry Township hospital has been in the works since the early UPMC Northwest merger details were announced two years ago.

Also on tap in the future will be the construction of a 50-office physicians' building and an assisted living complex, both targeted for the hospital property. Those plans are still on the drawing board, according to UPMC Northwest.

Meanwhile, a committee led by Dick Castonguay, director of the Venango Economic Development Corp., is doing preliminary work in anticipation of trying to sell hospital properties worth $5.3 million. Those properties include the Oil City and Franklin hospitals and various physicians and administrative buildings.

They will close up shop once the new UPMC Northwest hospital is completed in 2004.