Merger final step in process of linking Northwest, UPMC
The Derrick, 11/30/01

A special thank you goes out to The Derrick for allowing this article to be posted

When the Northwest Health System directors sign a merger agreement today, the local health center will become the newest member of the UPMC network.

The merger is the final step in a process inked nearly five years between Northwest and UPMC. In February 1997, Northwest and UPMC announced they were affiliating, a looser agreement than a merger with the aim solely focused on sharing clinical services.

That type of affiliation agreement still involves two other hospitals in this area - Meadville Medical Center and United Community Hospital in Grove City.

UPMC Health System sprawls across western Pennsylvania and is the largest non-governmental employer in the region.

It is also one of the most highly regarded health institutions in the world.

It is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Science and began simply as a small network of Pittsburgh-based hospitals, most notably Presbyterian Hospital.

UPMC has grown enormously over the past decade and now includes more than two dozen hospitals, either merged or affiliated with the parent organization, and dozens of other health care facilities, ranging from assisted living facilities to surgery centers.

It is a major integrated delivery and financing system, with 19 hospitals it owns and another nine hospitals with UPMC affiliation agreements. UPMC has 4,000-plus physicians, an array of outpatient and post-acute facilities, and insurance services with more than 300,000 members.

The addition of Northwest Health System to the UPMC fold puts the Pittsburgh-based health giant further north than it has ever been. The UPMC-Northwest merger will place another 1,300 or so employees and one brand new hospital under the auspices of the mega-health system.

While the Northwest merger surely adds to the scope of UPMC, the impact is right about middling based on UPMC's huge size.

Here's a quick statistical look at the local hospital's new owner:

UPMChas 32,700 employees working at facilities in 29 western Pennsylvania counties. That makes it a major employer in those scattered communities.

It is one of the largest not-for-profit integrated health care systems in the U.S. and boasts an internationally renowned reputation.

More than 4,000 physicians are employed by UPMC. Most are on hospital staffs but others work at nearly 300 UPMC doctors' offices, including Venango Internal Medicine in Oil City, throughout the region. Most recently, 60 physicians from UPMC were cited in the "America's Top Doctors" listing.

UPMChas the region's largest network of hospitals, including community hospitals and the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated teaching hospital. With Northwest, UPMC will have 19 inpatient facilities.

Hospitals that have merged into the UPMC network include:

Pittsburgh: Presbyterian (including Montefiore and Eye and Ear), Shadyside, Passavant, St. Margaret, South Side, Magee-Women's Hospital, UPMC Rehabilitation Hospital, Western Psychiatric Institute/Clinic

Everett: Bedford Memorial

Braddock: Braddock Hospital

Greenville: Horizon-Greenville

Farrell: Horizon-Shenango

Johnstown: Lee Regional

McKeesport: McKeesport Hospital

Northwest and nine other western Pennsylvania hospitals have affiliation agreements with UPMC.

Today, Northwest's affiliation agreement becomes a full-fledged merger. Also up to transfer from an affiliation to a merger is Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. That is a $600 million deal aimed at building a new children's health center.

That leaves these affiliated hospitals in the UPMC realm: South Hills Health System, Washington Hospital, Brownsville Hospital, Ellwood City Hospital, Fay-West Health System (Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant and Highlands Hospital in Connellsville), Jeannette Hospital, Meadville Medical Center and United Community Hospital in Grove City.

n UPMC's holdings can be split into three categories: Top level tertiary care, specialty hospitals and community hospitals.

The two hospitals at the top of the UPMC chain are UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside, both in Pittsburgh and both classified as tertiary care hospitals, or facilities that offer advanced and complex care.

The specialty hospitals are Eye & Ear, Magee-Women's, UPMC Rehabilitation Hospital and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, all in Pittsburgh. New next year to the UPMC specialty hospital fold will be Pittsburgh Children's Hospital.

The UPMC empire has 3,350 beds in service, a figure which includes Northwest and the pending Children's Hospital numbers.

The largest hospital at 812 beds is UPMC Presbyterian, followed by Shadyside Hospital with 486 beds. The smallest in bed number is UPMC Bedford with 59.

UPMC Northwest, with 124 licensed beds, would be the third smallest (UPMC Greenville has 119 beds, Bedford Memorial has 59) in the UPMC chain of acute care hospitals.

UPMC also owns more than two dozen surgical centers and satellites throughout the region.

There are 10 outpatient and more than 15 inpatient UPMC rehabilitation centers, plus more than 40 affiliated centers, under the auspices of UPMC in western Pennsylvania.

UPMC owns and operates retirement villages in Greensburg, Lawrenceville, McCandless, Monroeville, Penn Hills, Scott Township and Squirrel Hill. The centers offer independent living, assisting living and skilled nursing. In Venango County, preliminary plans call for a retirement center sometime in the future at the new hospital site in Cranberry Township.

Home health care is available throughout the UPMC system. In Venango County, the Northwest-owned VNA will continue to provide those services.

Business is booming in terms of patient care. Emergency departments at UPMC hospitals treat more than 275,000 patients a year.

The inpatient numbers are huge. The UPMC admissions, including those for Northwest and Children's Hospital, amount to 163,800 patients a year. There are nearly two million outpatient admissions each year. Visits to provide home health services top 150,000 a year.

UPMC's specialty hospitals are often chart-toppers, such as Magee-Women's Hospital. The Pittsburgh-based hospital delivered more babies in 1999 than any other hospital in Pennsylvania.

Research has fueled much of UPMC's growth as the health organization is repeatedly recognized for its groundbreaking medical studies and trials. For example, UPMC's pioneering transplant system has made it the busiest transplant center in the world.

That fame means money to UPMC. Its affiliated University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is a top 10 recipient of National Institutes of Health research grants in numerous area, including genetics, orthopaedic surgery, and pharmacy. The center has more than $180 million in NIH research funding.